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Yemen airline ordered to pay millions over 2009 crash

AFP  |  Aix-en-Provence (France) 

A French court on today ordered Yemenia airline to pay more than 30 million euros (USD 34 million) in damages to the families of victims of a deadly 2009 crash off the Comoros islands.

France charged the Yemen air carrier in 2013 with manslaughter over the crash of an Airbus A310 which the French authorities said should never have been allowed to fly.

All but one of the 142 passengers, who included dozens of French nationals and 11 crew members, died in the June 2009 disaster in the Indian Ocean as the plane tried to land in the Comoros capital Moroni.

Bahia Bakary, then 14, was the only survivor. Her mother was among the dead on Flight IY 626.

The teenager was rescued after being spotted swimming in choppy waters in the middle of bodies and plane debris.

Many of the passengers were Comorans heading home from France for summer break, which often include family and wedding celebrations on the islands.

They had been flying from Paris and Marseille to the Comoros via the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where they were transferred from the plane that had carried them from France to the A310.

The 19-year-old jet had been banned from European airspace.

And a 2007 check of the A310 by French inspectors had found numerous faults with the plane.

France opened an investigation in July 2009 to determine the cause of the accident.

The families of the victims then filed a suit in April 2011 accusing the airline of trying to block the truth and putting the lives of people in danger.

They had complained of delays in the investigation and accused Yemen of applying pressure to prevent its carrier from being held responsible.

Some 800 people who were close to the victims had demanded more than 70 million euros in damages.

But the airline had sought to reduce the amount, particularly with regards to uncles, aunts, nephews or nieces whom it argued "do not demonstrate a specific affected link".

Victims' associations, however, countered that entire families were "decimated".

A Comoros report into the crash concluded that "inappropriate actions of the crew" at the flight controls caused the plane to stall and led to the crash.

First Published: Thu, February 19 2015. 23:00 IST