"Screams and crying" were heard in a Paris courtroom today as families of the victims of an Air France crash, which claimed the lives of three Irish women, discovered French prosecutors would not seek convictions of the airline and its manufacturer Airbus.
The three Irish women who died were Dr Aisling Butler (26) of Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Dr Jane Deasy (27) from Dublin; and Dr Eithne Walls (28) from Co Down.
The aircraft plunged into the Atlantic en route from Brazil to Paris in 2009, killing all 228 people on board.
The three friends had studied medicine together in Trinity College Dublin, and were returning from a holiday in Brazil when the disaster took place.
Both the planemaker and airline are on trial for involuntary manslaughter, but the prosecutor’s office said it is “not in a position” to request conviction, according to. A ruling is expected in several months.
Catherine Berthet, who lost her 28-year-old daughter Camille when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa in 2019, attended the eight-week trial in solidarity with the families.
There were “screams and crying” in the courtroom today as families heard the prosecutions six-hour long case, she said, adding she cried alongside the families.
When families initially understood the arguments being made by prosecutors, many walked out of the courtroom, she said.
Ms Berthet said the families of the three Irish women lost in the crash “must be totally destroyed today”, particularly after waiting 13 years for justice.
Paris prosecutors took the position that it seems “impossible to demonstrate” the liability of the companies for the accident that killed all 228 people on board the Airbus A330.
Air France Flight 447 plunged 38,000ft (11,582m) in three minutes into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, the deadliest crash in the airline’s history. After the crash, attention focused on three sensors that measure airspeed and got clogged by ice when the pilots were about four hours into the flight.
The crash killed people of 33 nationalities, and families from around the world are among the plaintiffs in the case. They fought for more than a decade to see the case come to trial.
Both companies deny criminal wrongdoing, though Air France has already compensated the families of those killed.
If convicted, each company faces potential fines of up to €225,000, a fraction of their annual revenues. No-one risks prison as only the companies are on trial.
- Additional reporting from PA and Bloomberg