Moscow airport chief resigns after Total crash

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MOSCOW (AP) — The general director of Moscow's Vnukovo Airport and his deputy resigned Thursday and Russian investigators detained four other airport employees following a plane crash that killed a top French oil executive and three crew members.

The twin moves indicated that responsibility for Monday night's crash was being widened well beyond the lone driver of the snowplow that the private jet hit as it was taking off. The accident that killed Total SA CEO Christophe de Margerie is being seen not only as a tragedy but as an embarrassment for Russia at a time of strained relations with the West.

Immediately following the crash, investigators detained the 60-year-old driver of the snowplow, Vladimir Martynenko, who they said had been drinking. His lawyer insisted, however, that his client does not drink because of a heart condition.

Investigators on Thursday released the results of Martynenko's blood alcohol test, which they said showed a level of .06 percent. Russia has zero tolerance of alcohol for all drivers, let alone those working at airports, but that reading is below the .08 percent that is the legal limit for driving in the United States and Britain.

Also Thursday, a Moscow court ordered Martynenko held in custody until Dec. 21 while the case remained under investigation.

The Investigative Committee, Russia's main investigative agency, said it had expanded the list of suspects to include the flight control chief, two traffic controllers and the senior engineer in charge of snow removal.

Vnukovo Airport, which is owned by the Moscow city government, said Andrei Dyakov, who had served as general director since 2005, and his deputy had resigned over the accident. It also said several airport managers had been suspended.