Russian plane crash: snowplow driver was drunk

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MOSCOW (AP) — The CEO of French oil giant Total SA was killed at a Moscow airport when his corporate jet collided with a snowplow whose driver was drunk, Russian investigators said Tuesday.

Total confirmed "with deep regret and sadness" that Chairman and CEO Christophe de Margerie died in the crash at Moscow's Vnukoko airport.

The three other people on board, all of them French crew members, also died when the French-made Dassault Falcon 50 crashed into the snowplow on takeoff at 11:57 p.m. Monday.

The driver, who airport officials said was not hurt, was operating the snowplow under the influence of alcohol, said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, Russia's main investigative agency.

De Margerie, 63, was a regular fixture at international economic gatherings and one of the French business community's most outspoken and recognizable figures, with his trademark silver moustache.

He was a vocal critic of sanctions against Russia, arguing that isolating Russia was bad for the global economy. He traveled regularly to Russia and recently dined in Paris with a Putin ally who is under EU sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended his condolences, his spokesman said.

"Vladimir Putin had known de Margerie for a long time and had maintained close working contact with him," Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. "The president highly valued the business qualities of de Margerie, as well as his staunch commitment both to the cause of promoting Russian-French relations and their mutually beneficial diverse cooperation in general."

French President Francois Hollande expressed his "stupor and sadness" at the news. In a statement, Hollande praised de Margerie for defending French industry on the global stage, and for his "independent character and original personality."

De Margerie had risen through the ranks at Total to become CEO in 2007, and added the post of chairman in 2010.