He told cabin crew to prepare for turbulence. Eight minutes later, everyone would be dead
Newly qualified doctor Aisling Butler from Tipperary was doing an internship at Tallaght Hospital. She was due to move to St James’ hospital in Dublin but first, she wanted to go on holiday with her Trinity College friends, Eithne Walls and Jane Deasy. But in the early hours of June 1st 2009, their flight Air France 447 from Rio to Paris flew into a storm. The pilot told the cabin crew to prepare for turbulence. Eight minutes later, everyone on board would be dead as the plane fell from the sky.
In fact, Jane would be the only one of the three friend’s whose body was recovered from the crash.
This week, thirteen years later, Air France and Airbus will go on trial for the manslaughter for the 228 people who lost their lives that night.
A victims’ support group, who know they will be plunged ‘back into extremely painful moments’ explained that this trial is ‘absolutely essential for the memory of those who disappeared, and for the families’.
It took two years to find the wreckage of the plane using undersea technology and remote controlled submarines.
And when they did, the transcript of recordings show that there was no distress signal. Prosecutors accused Air France of failing to provide sufficient training in how pilots should react in case of malfunction in the speed monitoring equipment.
France’s BEA crash investigation agency said that the 32-year-old junior pilot on board had pulled the nose up as the aircraft became unstable.
Despite an enquiry concluding that the crash was caused by an Air France pilot error and technical problems with the Airbus, judges dismissed the cases in August 2019.
However, this decision was reversed last year by the Paris Appeal Court, meaning the two companies will go on trial from tomorrow for ‘negligence and recklessness leading to manslaughter’.
This week the court will hear testimony from aviation experts and pilots, along with second-by-second details of the final minutes in the cockpit before the plane went into free-fall.
According to PA, testimony will also be heard from some of the victims’ family members, 476 of whom are civil plaintiffs in the case. “It’s going to be a very technical trial… but our goal is also to re-introduce the human element,” said Alain Jakubowicz, a lawyer for the victims’ group Entraide et Solidarite (Mutual Aid and Solidarity).
The families of the three Irish doctors who lost their lives in the crash will be waiting to see how this trial pans out. It’s been thirteen years since they hugged their daughters and sisters goodbye as the young women set out on their last adventure before settling into their careers. Thirteen years since they last time they saw their faces.