MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian prosecutors detained four Moscow airport workers and denied bail to the driver of a snow plough which hit a private jet killing the CEO of French oil company Total earlier this week, officials said on Thursday.
Russia’s investigative committee has moved quickly to detain those it says might be responsible for the crash, which killed Christophe de Margerie in a tragedy which has done little to improve Russia’s reputation for poor air safety.
The chief executive of Moscow’s Vnukovo airport and his deputy resigned over the crash, but some critics have accused investigators of trying to find a scapegoat by accusing the driver of the snow plough, 60-year-old Vladimir Martynenko, of being drunk. His lawyer denied the allegations.
On Thursday, a court denied Martynenko’s appeal to be allowed bail on health grounds. Investigators said Martynenko, who appeared in the blue uniform he wore to work at Vnukovo, would be a flight risk and could destroy evidence.
“I am cooperating with investigators, I know I am involved in this incident. (But) this is new to me, pre-trial detention center, it’s tough there,” Martynenko said quietly from a barbed metal cage in the courtroom during his unsuccessful bail hearing.
He will be kept in jail until the court case begins.
Earlier the investigative committee said in a statement that prosecutors had detained Vladimir Ledenev, the leading airfield service engineer at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, which was overseeing snow clearing work on the night of the crash.
They had also detained the head of flights at the airport, Roman Dunayev, dispatcher-trainee Svetlana Krivsun as well as Vnukovo’s dispatcher Alexander Kruglov.
Russia’s aviation committee MAK, which is also investigating the crash, said on Thursday it finished collecting plane parts from the crash site and had carried out an initial analysis of the black box recordings.
MAKs representatives told a news conference the runway was clear when the plane was given permission to take off. They added the aircraft was already in the air at a speed of some 250 kilometers per hour when it hit the plough and that the plane’s crew saw the cleaning machine just before the crash.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova, Maria Tsvetkova, Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Elizabeth Piper and William Hardy