Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Drunk' snow-plough driver blamed for plane crash that killed Total's CEO claims he is being framed

Plane crash snowplow driver who 'got lost' while 'drunk' claims he is being framed and says he doesn't drink because he suffers from a heart condition

A snowplow driver at Moscow's Vnukovo airport has said he lost his bearings before a collision with a private plane in which Total CEO Christophe de Margerie died.

The Falcon 50 jet crashed as it was taking off at around midnight on Tuesday en-route to Paris in poor visibility, killing all four on-board, according to an airport spokesperson.

Initial reports by Russian news outlet, LifeNews, claimed the jet crashed immediately after take off. A distress signal was triggered by the pilot who decided to turn back after reporting engine fire and fuselage damage, but unable to control the aircraft it crashed onto the runway, bursting into flames.
Russian news service, TASS, issued a report contradicting LifeNews' initial account a few hours later, stating the plane crashed after striking a snowplow before take off. Earlier LifeNews reports were retracted and modified, as were reports by other outlets, including Russia's RT. 

63-year old De Margerie - who has been plagued by allegations of corruption during his tenure at Total - was in Russia attending a government meeting on foreign investment. (Reuters)

Attention focused on the snowplow driver, Vladimir Martynenko, who was arrested and found to have been under the influence of alcohol after a medical examination, said LifeNews. 

In a later report the same outlet claimed the driver admitted hiding brandy in a thermos flask with tea. In another report and video

LifeNews say Russian "experts" have come up with the theory that the snowplow driver got lost on the runway due to a broken light close-by.

However, Martynenko denies he was drunk, said his lawyer, Aleksandr Karabanov, who stated that his client had passed the daily "medical examination" that all snowplow operators at the airport are required to take before reporting for duty.

Karabanov told reporters on Wednesday that the results of the test were recorded in a log book that investigators now have in their possession. (CNN)

The denials seem to imply Martynenkov believes he is being framed for the crash.

Reuters said that television footage (currently not found) showed the snowplough driver seemingly unhurt. 

The Investigative Committee (IC) of the Russian Federation, in charge of the investigation, stated that human factor was the primary reason for the crash. Un-officially The IC said the air-traffic was directed by a trainee controller, according to LifeNews.

Russia’s IC is considering four causes of the crash at this time. According to spokesman Ivan Sibul, it could have been the “pilot’s fault, or the fault of air traffic control, as well as that of the snowplow driver, or poor visibility.”

An IC spokesperson, Tatiana Morozova, confirmed (@ 0:19) Martynenko tested positive for being under the influence alcohol:

23rd October: CNN report Thursday that Martynenko has been sent to pretrial detention.

Four other airport employees have also been detained in connection with the crash, said investigators, Russia's IC.

This is a developing story. Updates to follow, announcements via twitter @RobPulseNews  

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