Vnukovo crash: Custody demanded for snowplow driver

A court in Moscow is set to consider on Thursday an appeal from investigators asking to extend a custody term for Vladimir Martynenko, an operator of a snowplow that caused a tragic crash in which Total’s CEO Christophe de Margerie, two pilots and a flight attendant, all of them French citizens, died in the crash.

Officials from the Russian Investigative Committee demanded the detention of the snowplow driver until December 21, saying that if he is not held, he could warn “other participants in the crime.”

During the takeoff at Moscow airport Vnukovo on Monday night, the four-seat Dassault Falcon business jet, en route to Paris, collided with a snowplow, caught fire and fell onto the runway.

Following the incident Martynenko was detained for the period of 48 hours, which expire on Thursday. Martynenko, who emerged unhurt from the incident, was reportedly under alcoholic influence, while he himself acknowledged that he had a cup of coffee with cognac in it before his shift.

A criminal case has been opened in Russia into the violation of traffic safety and operation of the plane. Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika personally oversees the investigation.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, said earlier on Thursday that Four staff members of Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport were detained on suspicion of their duties’ negligence in regard to the Falcon-300 private jet crash.

The detained are chief engineer of the airport’s service Vladimir Ledenev, who was in charge of snow-clearing works at the time of the incident, flights director Roman Dunayev, intern air traffic controller Svetlana Krivsun and airport’s chief air traffic controller Alexander Kruglov, who was in charge of the air traffic at the time of the tragic crash.

The head and deputy-head of Vnukovo Airport have also resigned, the airport’s press service announced.

“Due to tragic events on the night of October 20 to 21, the head of the Vnukovo International Airport Andrey Diakov and deputy head, Lieutenant-General of Aviation in Reserve Sergey Solntsev, have resigned. The resignations have been accepted,” said a statement.