Updated 7:35 p.m. Moscow Time
MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Falcon passenger plane was cleared to take off from the Vnukovo airport as the runway was unobstructed at the time of the clearance, while the driver of a snowplow had not asked for permission to cross it, Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) said Thursday.
"The runway was unobstructed when the traffic controller was clearing the plane for take off," head of IAC investigation committee, Alexey Morozov, told reporters in Moscow.
However, some 10 seconds after the clearance confirmation by the crew, the traffic controller registered an unauthorized movement of a snowplow toward the intersection of two runways, Morozov said.
"The traffic controller had not received a request by the snowplow driver for permission to cross the runway occupied by the Falcon plane," Morozov stressed.
The driver of the snowplow, Vladimir Martynenko, has been arrested and is under investigation of his role in the fatal plane crash of French oil giant Total’s CEO Christophe de Margerie late Monday night.
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.
The snowplow driver was detained within 48 hours of the accident and accused of being intoxicated at the time of the tragedy, but he denied the allegations during an interrogation on Tuesday. His lawyer said the driver did not drink alcohol at all due to heart problems.
Earlier reports said that four Vnukovo employees were under investigation on suspicion of "failing to ensure compliance with safety rules for flights and airport ground operations." The four suspects were a senior airport engineer responsible for snow removal, an air traffic controller trainee and her supervisor, as well as the air traffic controller who was on duty at the time of the tragedy.
On Thursday, Vnukovo International Airport press service said that the airport's general director, Andrei Dyakov, and deputy general director, Sergei Solntsev, resigned after the lethal plane crash, while some other managerial staff were dismissed.