A French judge has filed preliminary charges of manslaughter against Air France over the crash of flight 447 into the Atlantic in 2009 which killed all 228 passengers and crew.
The charges allow the continuation of a probe into the crash of AF447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris amid an intense, high-altitude thunderstorm. Investigators have said the crash was likely caused by a series of technical problems, but the exact details remain unclear.
Judge Sylvie Zimmerman filed the charges a day after doing the same against Airbus, the Toulouse, France-based maker of the jet.
In an unusual step, Air France vigorously protested the move. “We do not recognize any good reason to justify this,” Air France Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said as he left the judge’s office in Paris. The carrier wasn’t responsible for the crash, “and it’s up to us to demonstrate that,” he said, according to Bloomberg.
Airbus also objected to the charges against it. CEO Tom Enders said Thursday that given an “absence of facts” to support the step, he “strongly disagreed."
He said Airbus was focused on finding the cause of the accident, which would necessitate further searches for the missing black boxes, or flight recorders, from the twin-engine A330-200 plane, he said. Three searches have so far failed to locate further wreckage or the recorders, which should contain critical information about the flight’s last moments.
A fourth attempt to locate the black boxes begins next week and will involve robot dives to depths of up to 13,120 feet to the ocean floor between Brazil and West Africa, the BBC reported.
The new search will likely cost $12.5 million and be financed jointly by Air France and Airbus. The previous three searches cost $27.5 million.
"We are convinced if we find the black boxes we'll be able to reconstruct what really happened on this tragic flight," Enders said.