ONE year later, residents gather to remember Concorde crash

Wednesday, July 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GONESSE, France (AP) _ Townspeople laid flowered wreaths Wednesday at the site where 113 people were killed when a Concorde jet smashed into a hotel a year ago.

More than 100 people, many carrying roses or carnations, paid their respects at the empty site in this industrial suburb of Paris. The spot has been paved with concrete since the supersonic jet fell from the sky on July 25, 2000.

``This accident has shaken us all,'' said Gonesse resident Claude Philippe, 63, who came with flowers. ``We're here for moral support.''

With talk that the Concorde may resume flights this fall, the mayor of Gonesse said he wants more questions answered first.

``I don't think we have enough assurances,'' Jean-Pierre Blazy said. ``We're not against the Concorde, but we cannot act as if this accident did not happen.''

The 12 remaining Concordes have been grounded since the crash. British Airways and Air France, the only two airlines that fly Concordes, have made safety modifications to their fleets and are conducting test flights.

French Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot told Le Figaro newspaper that, ``if all goes well,'' the aircraft would return to the skies in early autumn.

``I can assure you that I will be the first civilian passenger on board,'' he said.

Families of some of the victims were to arrive in Gonesse later Wednesday before attending a memorial service at Paris' Saint-Sulpice church on the Left Bank.

Trailing flames from its wings, the sleek airliner plunged into the hotel minutes after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris. All 100 passengers, nine crew members and four people on the ground were killed.

Investigators believe one of the Concorde's tires burst after running over a stray metal strip on the runway. The explosion sent rubber debris hurtling toward fuel tanks, prompting a fuel leak and fire that brought the plane down.