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Paris tourist boat skipper sentenced in fatal crash

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Paris tourist boat skipper sentenced in fatal crash
A Bateaux Mouches tourist boat on the river Seine, thhe scene of a fatal crash in 2008. Photo: AFP
08:18 CEST+02:00
The skipper of a Bateaux Mouches tourist boat that was involved in a fatal crash on the River Seine was sentenced by a French court on Tuesday.

A French court on Tuesday handed down a three-year suspended prison sentence to the skipper of a Bateaux Mouches tourist boat that crashed into a smaller vessel on the River Seine in 2008, killing one man and a young boy.

The court also awarded €790,000 ($887,000) to the victims and their families and banned the vessel's skipper Florent Bonnin, 47, from holding a boating licence for three years.

Bonnin's 60-metre-long (196-foot) tourist vessel slammed into a smaller pleasure craft, sending it crashing into the pillar of a bridge over the Seine.

Bonnin was found guilty of manslaughter and unintentional injury in connection with the crash that happened within sight of Notre Dame cathedral.

The smaller boat, which had 12 people aboard, sank almost immediately after the collision. A 45-year-old man at the helm and a six-year-old boy were trapped underwater and died.

Olivier Travert, the father of the boy killed in the crash, said he felt justice had been done, adding the case served as a lesson.

"The Seine is a motorway where there are rules to follow. Just because you transport thousands of people doesn't mean the Seine belongs to you," Travert said.

"Those of us with our own boats are allowed to sail too," he added. 

The other 10 people on board -- five adults and five children, all of them French -- were plucked from the water immediately after the boat sank.

The court explained Bonnin was responsible for the crash because he was speeding, did not keep safe distance and was at the wheel under the influence of marijuana.

Victims of the crash and their families had sought more than 1.7 million euros from Bateaux-Mouches as well as European Armament and Charter (EAA), the company managing the boat crews.

The court on Tuesday ordered both companies as well as Bonnin to pay the €790,000 to the victims and their families.

Lawyers for the pilot and companies said they would consider an appeal.

Experts who testified in the case said the crash was at least partly due to the length of the Bateaux-Mouches boat, but also Bonnin's fatigue.

The skipper had worked 13 hours with one break, making the company's scheduling partly responsible for the crash, according to one expert heard by the court.

Lawyer Aurelie Cerceau, who represented the father of the boy killed in the crash, said the court's ruling had provided a measure of closure.

"The court has made things right. The skipper is guilty. The companies have been held responsible and my client can finally see his son rest in peace," she said.

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