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Old 07-04-2002, 17:11   #1 (permalink)
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Volvo probed over tunnel deaths

A FRENCH examining magistrate has placed the Swedish Volvo company under investigation for "serious manslaughter" over a deadly fire which started aboard one of its trucks in the Mont Blanc tunnel in 1999.

"This is one further lead in the investigation, and it won't be the last," said magistrate Alain Jakubowicz, who is investigating the accident.

The fire, in March 1999, broke out on a Volvo-made truck carrying flour and margarine through the tunnel.

It became a massive blaze which left 39 people dead and saw the Alpine link closed until March this year.

The magistrate said his investigations had uncovered two defects in the type of Volvo truck involved - in the air intake mechanism and the overhead valve cover.

He said he believed Volvo had known about them.

"Volvo knew about the defects, as shown by experts," he said.

Among other people already under investigation over the accident are the driver of the truck, Gilbert Degrave, and officials of the companies which run the tunnel, both at the French and the Italian ends.

The tunnel reopened to car traffic in March after three years of renovations to improve security. It opened to trucks weighing less than 19 tonnes in April.

Heavy trucks with up to four axles were allowed to use the tunnel again in May, a move that sparked protests in both France and Italy.
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