FILE – Workers unload the remains of Air France Flight 447 from the Brazilian Navy frigate Constitución in the port of Recife, northeast Brazil, Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File )

PARIS (AP) — A French court on Monday acquitted airline Air France and automaker Airbus of murder charges in the 2009 crash of Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The incident caused the death of 228 people and led to changes in aviation security measures.

When the judges read the decision, sobs were heard among the relatives of the victims present in court. The acquittal was a devastating defeat for the families, who fought for 13 years to bring the case to court.

The three-judge panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a direct link between the companies’ decisions and the accident. The official investigation concluded that several factors contributed to the accident, including pilot error and the freezing of the plane’s external sensors.

The two months of trial left the families outraged and disappointed. Even the district attorney’s office asked for an acquittal, which was unusual, noting that insufficient evidence of criminal offenses by the companies had been found.

The prosecution attributed most of the responsibility to the pilots, who died in the accident. Airbus lawyers also blamed pilot error, while Air France said the exact cause of the crash will never be known.

Airbus and Air France face fines of up to 225,000 euros ($219,000) each if found guilty. The sum would have represented only a fraction of their annual turnover, but a condemnation of two large companies would have had consequences for the entire aeronautical industry.

Although the court did not find any criminal offense on the part of the companies, the judges noted that Airbus and Air France were civilly responsible for what had happened and ordered them to compensate the families of the victims. He did not specify a specific figure, although he set sights in September to determine it.

Air France has already compensated the families of the deceased, who came from 33 countries. Among the complainants were people from various parts of the world, including many from Brazil.

The A330-200 aircraft disappeared from radar during a storm over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, with 216 passengers and 12 crew on board. It took two years to find the plane and its recording devices on the ocean floor, more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) deep.

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