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France charges Yemen airline over deadly 2009 crash

France has charged Yemenia Airways with manslaughter over a 2009 crash off the Comoros islands in which 152 people were killed, sources said on Wednesday.

PARIS: France has charged Yemenia Airways with manslaughter over a 2009 crash off the Comoros islands in which 152 people were killed, sources said on Wednesday.

The Yemen carrier was charged on November 15 in connection with the crash of an Airbus A310 which French authorities have said should not have been allowed to fly, a judicial source said.

All but one of the 142 passengers, who included dozens of French nationals, and 11 crew members, died in the June 20, 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.

Many of the passengers were Comorans heading home for summer break, which is often marked with 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 French airspace. Dominique Bussereau, the then transport minister, said after the crash that French inspectors had in 2007 found numerous faults with the A310.

France opened a judicial 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 for a long time complained of delays in the way the investigations were being handled and accused Yemen of applying pressure to prevent its carrier from being held responsible.

A Comoros report into the crash in June last year concluded that "inappropriate actions of the crew" on the flight controls caused the plane to stall and led to the crash.

An association of the families of the victims hailed the charges as a huge step towards gaining justice.

"It's the end of four-and-a-half years of contempt, repeated hurdles, cowardice and impunity," it said.

"It is of course a relief after a... fight for truth and justice," said Said Assoumani, the head of the association, who lost his sister, brother-in-law and nine-year-old niece in the crash.

Yemenia refused to comment, when contacted by AFP in France.

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