April 9, 2005

France opens judicial probe in Queen Mary disaster

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France (Reuters) - A French prosecutor ordered a judicial investigation on Thursday against seven people andtwo companies over the deaths of 15 people during the building of the world's biggest cruise liner.

The 15 died when a temporary walkway collapsed as they were crossing it on a sightseeing tour of the Queen Mary 2 onNovember 15, 2003, at Saint-Nazaire in western France where it was built.

Prosecutor Pierre Marie Block said the people placed under investigation included the company Endel which built the walkwayand four of its employees for "involuntary killing and causing of injuries".

Alstom Marine, a subsidiary of heavy engineering company Alstom, and three of its employees, were also placed underinvestigation.

"The magistrate ... will summon the people to inform them that they are under investigation in the next few days," Block toldreporters.

She said this would allow the people and companies under investigation to address any grievances against them.

The people killed in the accident were friends and family of workers involved in the construction of the Queen Mary 2. Theaccident occurred when the walkway suddenly gave way and the group fell 20 metres (50 feet) to the bottom of the dry dock.



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