CEO’s plane crash due to ‘criminal negligence’

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. Initial reports said the driver of a snow plough that collided with the plane had been drunk.

CEO's plane crash due to 'criminal negligence'
Images taken from a 3D video reconstruction of the plane crash by Russian media Life News.

"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.

The crash was reconstructed by Russian news site Life News, which aims to show what happened to the plane as it was about to take off.

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Fire erupts at France’s largest oil refinery

Firefighters brought a fire at the largest oil refinery in France under control Saturday, local officials said, hours after it started in the small hours of the morning.

Fire erupts at France's largest oil refinery
An automatic hose working to extinguish a flame at the Total oil refinery at Gonfreville-l'Orcher on Saturday. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP
The blaze broke out at one of Total's oil refineries near the port city of Le Havre, northwestern France, at 4am said officials at the prefecture of the Seine-Maritime region.
By dawn, smoke was pouring out across the region reaching as far as 10 kilometres (six miles) away. About 50 firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.
A smell of hot tar hung over the zone, an AFP photographer noted, and although tests for air pollution near the plant were negative, for a few hours the prefecture advised residents to stay indoors.
In a statement they said a pump fault appeared to have caused the fire.
Total confirmed in its statement that the fire appeared to have been caused at a feed pump.
Nobody had been injured and all those at the site, which employs around 1,500 people, had been accounted for, it added.
But the incident comes only a day after safety officials approved the partial reopening of a factory in the northwest city of Rouen — which suffered a fire last September — over the objections of some local officials.
The blaze at the plant in Rouen on September 26 sent billowing clouds of soot as far as 22 kilometres away, prompting evacuations and school closures over potential health risks.
Both the factory at Rouen and the refinery near Le Havre are classified high-risk on the Seveso scale measuring industrial risk.
Tests for air pollution near the plant were negative but the prefecture advised residents to stay indoors.
Total said in a statement that no one was injured and that all those at the site, which employs around 1,500 people, have been accounted for.