Bereaved family members of the victims who lost their lives in Air France’s most devastating plane crash in its history have said their loved ones have “died a second time” after a French court acquitted the flight provider of manslaughter charges. After a two-month trial fraught with emotion, families of the victims were left devastated by the result, though it had been expected, as the court ruled that there was not enough evidence to directly and demonstratively link the alleged negligence to the fatal crash.
“Our lost ones have died a second time. I feel sick,” said Claire Durousseau, who lost her niece in the 2009 crash.
Daniele Lamy, president of the AF447 victims’ association, said they were “mortified and overwhelmed” by the verdict.
He said the case had followed a “chaotic” path, adding that “the loser first and foremost is French justice”.
The acquittal ended more than a decade of agony for the families of the deceased as they sought some form of closure on the tragic loss of their loved ones.
Air France expressed their “deepest compassion” to the relatives, while Airbus’s lawyer declined to comment after the decision.
The flight provider stood accused of failing to train their pilots in how they should navigate the icing over of external sensors called pitot tubes, which made flying more difficult.
Airbus was accused of not sufficiently informing airlines and crews about the pitot faults and not providing sufficient training to mitigate the risk.
However, the court ruled that there was not a strong enough causal link between these failings and the crash to prove an offence had been committed since pilot error – all three died in the crash – was regarded as significantly contributory.
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Air France has already compensated the victims for the tragedy that befell them more than a decade ago.
But a guilty finding of involuntary manslaughter on Monday would have left them liable to potential fines of up to £198,000 ($219,000) each.
While that would amount to just a fraction of the annual revenues of both companies, a conviction against the aviation giants could have reverberated through the industry.
The judges did say, however, that Airbus and Air France held civil responsibility for the crash, and ordered them to compensate the families of the victims. It didn’t provide an overall amount, but scheduled hearings in September to work that out.