French judges drop case against Air France for 2009 crash

International

FILE- This April 11, 2018 photo shows Air France planes parked on the tarmac at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris. A French association of victims says investigating magistrates dropped the case against Air France and Airbus in the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that killed all 228 people aboard. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

PARIS (AP) — French judges dropped a decade-long investigation into Air France and planemaker Airbus over the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which killed all 228 people aboard and led to new aircraft safety regulations.

The decision infuriated victims’ groups in France and Brazil that have pushed to bring the case to trial, and believe the airline and jet manufacturer are at least partially responsible.

They plan to appeal, as does France’s main pilots’ union. The judges’ decision not to pursue manslaughter charges against Air France and Airbus was not made public, but suggests they believe the pilots alone were at fault.

Victims’ association FENVAC on Thursday announced the ruling, which was confirmed by a French judicial official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk about the case.

Air France Flight 447 left Rio for Paris but crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Later, one of history’s most ambitious and costly undersea search operations managed to find the plane’s flight recorders in the Atlantic depths.

The French accident investigation bureau, the BEA, found that external speed sensors were frozen and produced irregular readings on the aircraft, which went into an aerodynamic stall. The captain also wasn’t in the cockpit, one of multiple problems identified at the time of the crash.

Meanwhile, French investigators were working in parallel to the BEA to determine whether to send anyone to trial.

The judges’ decision to drop the case goes against the request of French prosecutors, who wanted Air France to stand trial for manslaughter but had asked to drop the case against Airbus for lack of sufficient evidence.

“We are very angry,” FENVAC director Sophia Seco told The Associated Press, calling the decision to drop the investigation “inexplicable.”

“How dare French justice settle the case of Air France’s deadliest air crash in this way?”

Nelson Marinho, whose 40-year-old son Nelson Marinho Jr. died in the accident, called it “absurd, just absurd” to blame pilots for the tragedy. Speaking to the AP from Rio, Marinho said his victims’ association will take action in response to the judges’ decision, but did not elaborate.

The crash and its fallout rattled the French government, a key shareholder in France’s flagship carrier. Victims’ groups also raised questions about Air France’s relationship with France-based Airbus, in which the French government also has a shareholding.

The crash led to new air safety rules regarding the speed sensors, known as pitot tubes.

An Associated Press investigation in 2009 found that Airbus knew since at least 2002 about problems with the type of speed sensor that malfunctioned on Flight 447, but air safety authorities did not order their replacement until after the crash.

Airbus insists that the plane was airworthy. Critics say the planemaker and airline didn’t take the pitot tubes problems seriously enough.

Airbus and Air France would not comment on the judges’ decision pending an eventual appeal.

___

Yesica Fisch in Rio de Janeiro and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to the report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Overcast

Abbeville

55°F Overcast Feels like 55°
Wind
7 mph NE
Humidity
91%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy with occasional rain late. Low 51F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
54°F Cloudy with occasional rain late. Low 51F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
Wind
9 mph NE
Precip
70%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Crowley

53°F Overcast Feels like 53°
Wind
5 mph ENE
Humidity
91%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low near 50F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.
54°F Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low near 50F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.
Wind
9 mph NE
Precip
70%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Opelousas

51°F Overcast Feels like 51°
Wind
8 mph ENE
Humidity
93%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy skies with periods of rain late. Low 48F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
54°F Cloudy skies with periods of rain late. Low 48F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
Wind
9 mph NE
Precip
70%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

Breaux Bridge

55°F Overcast Feels like 55°
Wind
6 mph ENE
Humidity
89%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low 51F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
54°F Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low 51F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
Wind
9 mph NE
Precip
70%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent
Overcast

New Iberia

57°F Overcast Feels like 57°
Wind
9 mph NE
Humidity
100%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy with a few showers. Low 46F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
57°F Cloudy with a few showers. Low 46F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Wind
7 mph NE
Precip
70%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waning Crescent

Trending Stories

Sidebar