Snowplow driver, air traffic controllers responsible for Falcon crash in Vnukovo

A snowplow that entered the runway and the erroneous actions of air traffic controllers are responsible for the crash of a Falcon jet of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie at Moscow Vnukovo airport, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax on Aug. 28.

A snowplow that entered the runway and the erroneous actions of air traffic controllers are responsible for the crash of a Falcon jet of Total CEO Christophe de Margerie at Moscow Vnukovo airport, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax on Aug. 28.

"Detectives have established that a direct cause of the Falcon crash was a collision between the jet, which was taking off, and a snowplow driven by Vladimir Martynenko who breached the rules and entered the runway in the absence of control over the driver's operations by senior shift engineer Vladimir Ledenev," Markin said.

"Air traffic controllers had a chance to prevent the plane-snowplow collision but did not do anything," Markin said.

The charges under Part 3 Article 263 of the Russian Criminal Code (violation of the rules for traffic safety and operation of air transportation systems entailing by negligence the death of two or more people) were brought against employees of the Vnukovo air traffic control center of State Air Traffic Management Corporation's Moscow automatic air traffic control center: flight operations supervisor Roman Dunayev, air traffic control instructor Alexander Kruglov, taxi operations controller Nadezhda Arkhipova, and air traffic control intern Svetlana Krivsun who was giving instructions to the French plane's crew under the supervision of the instructor, as well as Vnukovo airport services employees: snowplow driver Vladimir Martynenko and senior shift engineer Vladimir Ledenev.

Detectives have established that a direct cause of the Falcon crash was a collision between the jet, which was taking off, and a snowplow driven by Vladimir Martynenko who breached the rules and entered the runway in the absence of control over the driver's operations by senior shift engineer Vladimir Ledenev.

"Additional factors that caused the air crash were violations of traffic safety rules by air traffic controllers Dunayev, Arkhipova, Krivsun and Kruglov," Markin said.

Surface movement radar data was available on their monitors, yet the defendants neglected their duties, violated air safety rules and did not inform the pilots of the plane that was taking off about the snowplow moving towards and entering the runway.

The pilots were not informed about the danger and had no chance to prevent the plane's collision with the vehicle. In the opinion of detectives, air traffic controllers could have prevented the plane-snowplow collision but did not do that.

"It should be noted that the criminal inquiry was held within an extremely short period, five months, which was an achievement not only in the judicial practice of the Russian Federation but also in air crash inquiries worldwide which regularly last from three to ten years," the Russian Investigative Committee spokesman said.

The involvement of foreign representatives in this inquiry, the fulfillment of international requests for legal assistance and the interviewing of French plaintiffs staying in the territory of foreign nations complicated the inquiry, he said.

"Principal evidence of guilt is the testimony of the defendants, the plaintiffs, witnesses, experts and specialists, numerous investigation reports and forensic documents," Markin said.

Six defendants and their 14 lawyers have studied the materials in the proceeding which comprise of 68 volumes, over 400 pieces of material evidence and annexes to investigation reports.

"Detectives have collected enough evidence and the criminal case has been submitted to the Prosecutor General's Office, which will approve the bill of indictment and refer the case to court for hearing its merits," Markin said.

A representation was made to the Russian transport minister for the purpose of eliminating conditions that were a factor in that crime, he said, adding that it would help avoid air crashes and casualties under similar circumstances in the future.

Read more: Questions over oil cooperation after Total CEO dies in Moscow plane crash>>>

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