Relatives mark Concorde crash in 2000

Families whose loved ones died in the fiery crash of a Concorde jet 10 years ago joined together near Paris on Sunday at a monument where the plane went down.

Families whose loved ones died in the fiery crash of a supersonic Concorde jet 10 years ago joined together near Paris on Sunday, laying flowers at a monument where the plane went down.

The families of victims from the Concorde supersonic jet crash gather at a monument in Gonesse north of Paris on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the crash. ((Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press))
A French court is awaiting a verdict on who was to blame for the crash, which killed 109 people aboard the plane and four on the ground, and devastated the jet's reputation.

The Concorde, which ferried the rich and famous across the Atlantic for three decades and could fly twice as fast as the speed of sound, was taken out of service in 2003.

Some 100 family members, witnesses of the crash and Air France officials attended ceremonies Sunday marking 10 years since the plane crashed after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle airport, plowing into a hotel in the Paris suburb of Gonesse.

Air France flew in family members from Germany, where most of the victims were from, and gave them flowers to place at the monument in Gonesse.

One couple clenched hands as they looked at the monument, made of transparent glass with a piece of an airplane wing jutting through it. Families laid the flowers in silence, though officials spoke briefly at the ceremony.

Afterward, relatives walked behind the monument, wandering the field where the plane crashed and where the hotel compound once stood.

Claudine Le Gouadec travelled to Gonesse to pay tribute to her sister, Virginie, chief flight attendant on the doomed plane.

Witness thought 'I'm going to die'

"I still have trouble believing that she is gone. It still seems abstract to me. The loss. For me she still exists, but I don't see her," she said.

This July 25, 2000 photo shows an aerial view of the scene in the Paris suburb of Gonesse where an Air France Concorde plane crashed shortly after take-off from Charles de Gaulle Airport. ((Joachim Bertrand/Ministry of Interior/Civil Security/Associated Press))
Patrick Tesse recalled watching the accident unfold from his hotel nearby.

"I was in my office with the windows wide open. The noise of the plane's engine made me look up and when I saw the Concorde, it was in flames, it was moving back and forth violently," he said. "I said to myself, 'That's it. I'm going die."'

After a decade of investigation, a French court held a trial earlier this year in which Houston-based Continental Airlines and two of its employees are accused of manslaughter in the crash. The verdict is expected in December.

The trial focused on investigators' reports that a Continental jet dropped a metal strip onto the runway before the Concorde took off. The prosecution says the debris gashed one of the Concorde's tires, sending pieces of rubber into the fuel tanks and sparking a fire.

Continental denies any responsibility, saying fire broke out on the Concorde before the plane reached the debris on the runway.

The prosecution also accuses three French officials of underestimating trouble spots on the Concorde itself. They are also charged with manslaughter.

The trial's main goal is to assign responsibility, as most of the victims' families received settlements years ago.