Friday, October 24, 2014

Moscow Court Arrests Air Traffic Controller in Fatal Plane Crash

MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) – The Basmanny Court in Moscow has placed an air traffic controller under arrest until December 21 on the suspicion of his involvement into the fatal crash of the French oil giant CEO’s plane earlier this week.

Judge Valentina Levashova agreed with prosecutors that the accused dispatcher, Alexander Kruglov, could disappear, destroy evidence, threaten witnesses, and cohort with coworkers, which would hamper investigations.

Total CEO Christophe de Margerie died in the crash of a Falcon 50 business jet late Monday night at Vnukovo-3 Airport. The incident happened when the aircraft, which was to fly to Paris, hit a snow removal vehicle when taking off. De Margerie was the only passenger on board along with three crew members, also French citizens. The crew also died in the crash. 

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Dassault Falcon 50EX, F-GLSA, Unijet 

Russia Detains Airport Staff Over Crash That Killed Total CEO: Managers and Controllers on Duty at Time of Accident Held 

 MOSCOW—Russian investigators said on Thursday they had detained managers and controllers on duty at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport during Monday’s corporate-jet crash that killed Total SA chief Christophe de Margerie .

Two top executives at the airport resigned and three others were suspended as a result of the crash, the airport said in a separate statement.

The detentions and resignations suggest the probe of the crash is widening beyond the allegedly intoxicated driver of the snow-removal truck that the Falcon-50 jet carrying Mr. de Margerie hit as it was taking off late Monday, causing the crash that killed all four people aboard the jet.

International aviation investigators probing the cause of the crash said late Thursday that initial data show both controllers and the plane’s crew were aware of the vehicle on the runway as much as 18 seconds before the crash but didn’t abort the takeoff. These investigators said it was too early to draw any conclusions from the data, however.

They said the runway was clear when the controllers cleared the plane for takeoff. About 10 seconds later, a monitoring system alerted the tower that a vehicle was headed for the runway about 1000 meters from where the plane started, although the vehicle didn’t ask permission to cross. Controllers didn’t inform the plane’s crew, however. Investigators said that according to the cockpit voice recorder, the pilots saw the vehicle about four seconds later, but dismissed it as “a car crossing the road” and continued their takeoff.

Only 14 seconds later, just after becoming airborne, did the crew realize that the truck was a snow-removal vehicle on the runway. Moments later, flying at a speed of about 248 kilometers/hour, the plane hit the truck, banked sharply to the right, crashing on its roof and bursting into flames on the grass near the runway.

Industry officials have said the crash highlights the sometimes-poor quality of Russian airport services, while prosecutors say the accident appears to have resulted from negligence by airport personnel. Such “runway incursions,” as they are known in the industry, have been an intense focus for safety regulators in the developed world in recent years but remain a problem in less-advanced countries, industry analysts say. Vnukovo is one of Russia’s premier airports, however, used for official delegations including local and foreign leaders.

The driver of the snow-removal truck, Vladimir Martynenko, who was detained early Tuesday, appeared in Moscow’s Basmanny Court early Thursday for a remand hearing. He admitted his truck was involved in the crash and said he was cooperating with investigators, Russian news agencies reported. “It’s very difficult for me now,” he told the court. The court ordered for him to be held until Dec. 21.

Investigators said Tuesday that Mr. Martynenko was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, said Thursday that Mr. Martynenko’s test results showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.06%. That qualifies as intoxication under Russian law but is below the minimum level under U.S. drunken-driving laws, for example.

Mr. Martynenko has denied he consumed any alcohol on the day of the crash and his lawyer said he passed the mandatory medical exam before starting his shift Monday.

“I lost my bearings and didn’t even notice that I had gone out onto the runway,” Mr. Martynenko told investigators in his initial interrogation, video excerpts of which were broadcast on Russian state television.

Mr. Martynenko’s lawyer, Alexander Karabanov, said his client had become separated from the rest of his column of plows in the darkness and was trying to contact his foreman by radio. A Vnukovo spokeswoman said the foreman responsible for the column was also detained Tuesday, but that couldn’t immediately be confirmed with investigators.

In another part of his interrogation, video of which was posted online by his lawyer, Mr. Martynenko said his column had been clearing a taxiway near the runway when he became separated from the group and inadvertently entered the runway.

In a statement, the Investigative Committee said it suspected the four people detained “did not ensure that flight safety and ground-support regulations were observed, leading to the tragedy.”

Among those detained were the trainee-controller on duty at the time of the crash, Svetlana Krivsun, and her supervisor, Alexander Kruglov, as well as the chief engineer responsible for snow-removal and the flight chief on duty at the time, investigators said in a statement.

Lawyers for those detained couldn’t immediately be reached.

The Vnukovo spokeswoman said three of the four detained Thursday aren’t airport employees but work for the state agency that handles air-traffic control and ground services. The fourth, Vladimir Ledenev, was the chief engineer for airport services and a Vnukovo employee.

At Vnukovo, the chief executive of the airport’s international branch, Andrei Dyakov, resigned, as did his deputy, Sergei Solntsev. In a statement, the airport said they stepped down “in connection with the tragedy.” The two men couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The airport also said it had suspended three officials on duty at the time of the crash.

- Source:

Russia’s Investigative Committee said Vladimir Martynenko was intoxicated when the snow plow he was driving collided with the private jet carrying Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. Reuters

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