Russian investigators are blaming ‘criminal negligence’ for the plane crash that killed Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil giant Total.
His private jet hit a snow plough while taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport in poor visibility late on Monday. The three crew members on board also died.
The Paris-bound plane’s flight recorders have been recovered and will be central to the criminal inquiry.
Initial reports suggested the snow plough’s driver, who was apparently unhurt, may have been drunk but his lawyer said the driver had been following instructions from air traffic control and that his relatives insisted he never drank alcohol.
Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said:
“It is now obvious that the cause of the disaster was not a horrible, tragic coincidence of circumstances which is how representatives of the airport are trying to present it, but rather it is criminal negligence by officials, who failed to ensure the coordinated actions of airport employees.”
At Total headquarters in Paris, stunned staff held a minute’s silence.
Christophe de Margerie had been in Moscow for a government meeting on foreign investment. His death leaves a void in France’s second-biggest listed company.