'Criminal negligence' behind Total CEO's Moscow plane crash

21st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The Moscow air crash that killed Total's CEO Christophe de Margerie was caused by "criminal negligence" on the part of senior airport officials, Russian investigators said on Tuesday.

"It was not a terrible tragic series of circumstances... but criminal negligence by officials" who failed to ensure that airport staff coordinated their duties, said the Investigative Committee, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin.

In a strongly worded statement, the committee's spokesman Vladimir Markin warned that several senior officials at Vnukovo airport would be suspended.

"Investigators will shortly take measures to remove a number of airport staff from their duties, who might hinder the investigation," Markin said, hours after De Margerie's jet crashed into a snow plough, killing all four on board.

Investigators had initially said they were focusing on the role of the snow plough driver, who has been detained, and air traffic controllers, but Markin said the probe would also examine the higher echelons of the airport.

"Despite the fact that the first suspects have already appeared, it's also obvious that senior management of the airport is behind the negligent acts of those directly involved," Markin said.

He said investigators would assess the "actions and non-action" of airport management.

"We do not rule out further detentions," he added.

The driver of the snow plough has been detained for 48 hours and investigators will ask a court to approve his arrest, Markin said, naming the man as Vladimir Martynenko.

Investigators said earlier that Martynenko was in a drunken state at the time of the accident, although his lawyer denied this, saying his client has a heart condition and does not drink alcohol.

Markin said investigators were questioning air traffic controllers involved, who would also be tested for alcohol and drug use.

© 2014 AFP

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