Tuesday 17 September 2019

Air France crash families furious at decision not to bring charges

Victim: Dr Aisling Butler from Roscrea, Co Tipperary
Victim: Dr Aisling Butler from Roscrea, Co Tipperary
Dr Jane Deasy from Rathgar
Dr Eithne Walls from Co Down

Allison Bray

A decision by French magistrates not to proceed with manslaughter charges against Air France and airline manufacturer Airbus over a fatal crash that killed 228 people, including three Irish doctors, has infuriated their grieving families.

The magistrates decided not to pursue charges against France's national carrier and the French-based airline manufacturer due to lack of evidence.

Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared over the Atlantic on June 1, 2009.

Among the 216 passengers and 12 missing crew members were Irish doctors and friends Jane Deasy from Rathgar, Dublin; Aisling Butler from Roscrea, Co Tipperary; and Eithne Walls from Co Down.

The Airbus 330 stalled in a storm and plunged into the ocean.

Magistrates looking into manslaughter charges brought by victims' relatives decided that there were insufficient grounds to prosecute and blamed the crew for losing control after speed sensors froze.

However, families of the French and Brazillian passengers who died in the mishap called the decision an "insult to the memory of the victims" and announced plans to appeal.

It was also reported last night that the families believe both Air France and Airbus are partially responsible for the crash and plan to appeal, as does France's main pilots' union.

The French accident investigation bureau, the BEA, found that external speed sensors were frozen and produced irregular readings on the aircraft, which went into a stall.

The captain also wasn't in the cockpit, one of multiple problems identified at the time of the crash, it was reported.

"We are very angry," victims' group director Sophia Seco, said last night, 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 son Nelson Marinho Jr (40) died in the accident, said it was "absurd, just absurd" to blame pilots for the tragedy.

Speaking from Rio, Marinho said his victims' association will take action in response to the judges' decision, but did not elaborate.

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.

Neither Airbus nor Air France would comment on the judges' decision pending an appeal.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News