[JURIST] A French court on Tuesday began the trial to determine the cause of the Air France Concorde jet crash [BBC backgrounder] outside Paris in 2000. French officials blame US-based Continental Airlines [corporate website] for the accident, alleging that a piece of metal fell off of a Continental plane and onto the runway, later causing the damage to the Concorde. The US carrier denies responsibility and claims that the Concorde caught fire before reaching the debris on the runway. Continental Airlines and two of the airline's employees are among the six defendants [CBC report] charged with manslaughter. Other defendants include two former high-ranking Concorde employees and the retired head of the French aviation authority. If convicted, the defendants could each receive up to five years in prison or a 75,000 fine. The trial, which is scheduled to last four months, has been met with criticism [Daily Mail report] for starting a decade after the accident, especially since the victims' families received settlements in 2001 and the Concorde jet was officially retired by all airlines in 2003.
More than 100 people died when Air France Concorde flight 4590 crashed into a hotel [BBC backgrounder] shortly after takeoff in July 2000. The French Bureau of Investigations and Analysis (BEA) [official website, in French] concluded [report, PDF] in 2004 that the crash was caused by a titanium strip that fell from the Continental Airlines flight and pierced the Concorde's tire.