PONTOISE, France - Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics were convicted of manslaughter Monday by a French court, which ruled that debris from a Continental plane caused the crash of an Air France Concorde jet that killed 113 people a decade ago.
The judges fined Continental 202,000 euros ($268,000) and John Taylor, its mechanic living in the United States, 2,000 euros ($2,650). Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence. Both said they would appeal.
Continental Airlines Inc.'s lawyer, Olivier Metzner, criticized the Pontoise court outside Paris for what he called a "patriotic" decision - blaming an American company while acquitting French officials accused of ignoring design flaws in the Concorde, a jet that could fly at twice the speed of sound and was the pride of European aviation.
All other defendants in the case - including three former French officials and Taylor's now-retired supervisor - were acquitted.
The judges also ordered nearly 2 million euros ($2.7 million) to be paid in damages to be shared by Air France, for the negative effect the accident had on its reputation, families of some victims, and other civil parties in the case.
Continental was ordered to pay the bulk of the damages, with a fraction falling to Airbus parent company EADS.
The presiding judge confirmed investigators' long-held belief that a titanium strip dropped by a Continental DC-10 onto the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport before the supersonic jet took off July 25, 2000, was to blame. Investigators said the debris gashed a tire on the Concorde, propelling bits of rubber into the fuel tanks and sparking a fire.
The plane slammed into a hotel, killing all 109 aboard, most of them German tourists, and four on the ground.
The crash marked the beginning of the end for the Concorde, which was a commercial dud despite its glamor. It was retired in 2003 by its only two carriers, Air France and British Airways.
"It bothers me that none of those responsible for Air France were sitting in the docks," said Ronald Schmid, a lawyer in Frankfurt who has represented several of the German victims' families.
While France's aviation authority concluded the crash could not have been foreseen, judicial investigators said the Concorde's fuel tanks lacked sufficient protection from shock and said officials had known about the problem for more than 20 years.
The court ruled, however, that although French officials missed opportunities to improve the Concorde over the years, they could "be accused of no serious misconduct."
The court said Taylor - a Danish citizen with permanent U.S. residence - should not have used titanium, a harder metal than required, to build a piece for the DC-10 that is known as a wear strip. He was accused of improperly installing the wear strip, which fell onto the runway.
In a telephone interview from his home in Montgomery, Texas, Taylor said: "I don't think I did the work" installing the wear strip.
"I've been nothing but wronged since this started," said Taylor, who marked 20 years of employment with Continental in August. He said the case had prevented him from gaining citizenship in the United States, where he has lived since age 3.
Metzner, who argued that a fire broke out on the Concorde even before it reached the runway debris, said the ruling "protects only the interests of France."
In a statement, Continental spokesman Nick Britton called the finding "absurd."