VERSAILLES, France — In a surprise ruling in one of the most high-profile disasters in aviation history, a French appeals court overturned manslaughter convictions Thursday against Continental Airlines and a mechanic in the 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.
The crash hastened the end for the already-faltering supersonic Concorde, synonymous with high-tech luxury but a commercial failure. The program, jointly operated by Air France and British Airways, was taken out of service in 2003.
In the July 25, 2000, accident, the jet crashed into a hotel near Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport soon after taking off, killing all 109 people aboard and four on the ground. Most of the victims were Germans heading to a cruise in the Caribbean.
A mistake made weeks earlier and thousands of miles away by a Continental mechanic in Houston played a crucial role in the crash, the court found.
According to the original ruling, mechanic John Taylor fitted the wrong metal strip on a Continental DC-10. The piece ultimately fell off on the runway in Paris, puncturing the Concorde's tire. The burst tire sent bits of rubber flying, puncturing the fuel tanks, which started the fire that brought down the plane.
On Thursday, Judge Michele Luga overturned the 2010 manslaughter conviction of Continental and the mechanic, saying their mistakes didn't make them criminally responsible for the deaths.