French judge charges former chief of Flash Airlines over 2004 Egypt crash

AFP , Wednesday 5 Jan 2022

A Paris judge has charged the former chief of Egypt's privately owned Flash Airlines over a 2004 crash off the Sinai Peninsula that killed 148 people, most of them French, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Flash Airlines
The chartered Boeing 737 plunged into the Red Sea on January 3, 2004, just minutes after take-off from the coastal resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, with all on board perishing, including 134 French citizens.

Mohamed Nour, managing director of the low-cost airline at the time, is the first person to be charged after years of investigations into the causes of the accident.

After long refusing French judicial summons, Nour agreed to appear before a judge for questioning in September, when he was named an official witness in the case.

But in December the judge notified Nour that he would be charged with involuntary manslaughter, the legal source said, confirming a report in Le Parisien newspaper.

An expert report from 2009 found that the pilots aboard were inadequately trained and suffering from fatigue due to their intense working hours in the weeks leading up to the accident.

France's aviation authority, the BEA, also determined that the pilot had suffered "spatial disorientation" before the crash, meaning he was unable to properly assess the plane's speed or altitude.

That led prosecutors to drop the case in 2016, saying a trial was unnecessary as the pilots were among the dead.

The move infuriated many victims' families, who in 2019 secured a reopening of the investigation with a Paris appeals court.

"Over 18 years of proceedings, we have often asked the judiciary to investigate the airline's directors," Isabelle Manson, president of a victims' association, told AFP.

She welcomed the decision to charge Nour, saying the judge now overseeing the inquiry "is not afraid to press ahead."

Aside from the French victims, those who died in the crash also included one Japanese, one Moroccan and 13 Egyptian crew members, according to remarks made by former Egyptian civil aviation minister Ahmed Shafeeq and reported by the guardian.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and former French president Jacques Chirac exchanged condolences in a phone call following the accident.

The Egyptian authorities, with the assistance of French technical equipment, retrieved the victimes' bodies.

Flash Airlines has since been liquidated, according to media reports.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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