Not just one but two unsupervised snowplows were moving around the Vnukovo airport runway at the time the Falcon business jet of French oil company Total CEO Christophe de Margerie was taking off, Kommersant wrote, citing a source close to the criminal inquiry.
The source said the airport air traffic controllers knew about the snowplows drying strips and taxiways of the second runway, the newspaper reported. He also said that the snowplow operators had seen a number of inactive lights near the runway which intersected the strip the Falcon was using.
The drivers who worked together knew there were electricians at the end of the runway and decided to bring the broken lights there. On their way back they crossed the first runway on which the Falcon started its acceleration. One snowplow zipped in front of the accelerating jet and the other was hit by a Falcon wing during the takeoff.
Kommersant reminded its readers that senior engineer of the Vnukovo airfield service Vladimir Ledenev, flight operations supervisor Roman Dunayev, air traffic controller Alexander Kruglov and air traffic control service intern Svetlana Krivsun were detained in the small hours of Thursday on the counts of violations of the flight safety and aircraft operation regulations. Dunayev, Kruglov and Krivsun were responsible for the safety of flights and ground operations and the engineer supervised the tarmac cleaning and maintenance.
In turn, the collective of Vnukovo air traffic controllers has posted on Twitter an open letter to Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin demanding "the immediate release of their colleagues from custody." The appeal was reposted by the Federal Trade Union of Air Traffic Controllers of Russia (FPAD). It said the three persons were detained in the morning of October 21, the day after the crash, at the end of their night shift.
FPAD legal service chief Oleg Babich told Kommersant that the trade union would start "an all-Russia and international campaign of solidarity" aimed at achieving the release of the detainees. He said the detention was unfounded: the air traffic controllers cooperated with the detectives yet "they were treated like dangerous criminals."
"There are no formal elements of a crime in their actions in principle but the Russian Investigation Committee needs to demonstrate its vigorous activity in the investigation, which has acquired an international level," Babich told the newspaper.
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