CEO of Total Petroleum Corporation, Christophe de Margerie, dies in jet crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport

CEO of Total Petroleum Corporation, Christophe de Margerie, dies in jet crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport

The CEO of France’s based petroleum corporation, Total, Christophe de Margerie, was reportedly among four people killed in a business jet crash at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow after the aircraft hit a snowplow on take-off.

Total’s chairman and CEO was the only passenger in the Falcon 50 business jet besides three crew-members, LifeNews cited a source as saying. Another source confirmed to TASS that de Margerie was the only passenger who checked in for the private flight to Paris, adding that the 3 crew-members were also French citizens.

“I can confirm that the passenger was Total’s head de Margerie,” airport spokeswoman Elena Krylova told Reuters.

Total has so far not confirmed the reports of its CEO’s death. “To date, I have no information that I could tell you. When and if it appears, you can get it from the press secretary or read the communiqué,” a representative of the company told RIA Novosti.

During take-off at around 0:10am Moscow time on Tuesday, the light aircraft, according to preliminary data, hit a snow-clearing machine with its landing gear. Due to the damage, the pilot reportedly decided to turn back and land.

While still in the air, the plane was sending distress signals and reporting an engine fire and fuselage damage, LifeNews reports. Upon crashing on the runway, the aircraft was immediately engulfed in flames, killing everyone on board.

Debris from the aircraft was scattered up to 200 meters from the crash site, according to the rescue services. The engine was found some 50 meters from the crash site, while one of the landing gears was ripped off and discovered nearly 200 meters from the main mass of debris.

Vnukovo Airport temporarily suspended all flights following the incident, but by 2 am all operations were restored. While initials reports suggested only four people died in the tragedy, some sources claimed that five bodies were found at the crash site, one allegedly being the driver of the snowplow. The airport however later confirmed that the driver was not injured in the collision.

“A criminal investigation has been opened into the violation of safety regulations after a light aircraft crash in the capital’s Vnukovo airport,” transport official Tatyana Morozova told RIA. An investigative group is working at the crash site, Morozova added.

Earlier in the day, due to bad weather conditions at least 18 planes were diverted from Vnukovo to other Moscow airports, Itar-tass reported siting a source at Vnukovo. Flights landing at Moscow airhubs operate “on factual weather” conditions, meaning that a crew commander decide themselves about the possibility of landing at the destination or preceding to alternative landing routes at the capital

Some 12 planes have been received by Domodedovo airport while 6 landed at Sheremetyevo as dense fog and winter weather conditions make landing difficult. According to the source, 80 percent of the diverted races were private business jets.

De Margerie, 63, joined Total in 1974 after graduating from the École Supérieure de Commerce in Paris. He served in several positions in the Finance Department and Exploration & Production division. In 1995, he became President of Total Middle East before joining the Total’s Executive Committee as the President of the Exploration & Production division in May 1999. In May 2006, he was appointed a member of the Board of Directors. He was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total on May 21, 2010.

Despite Western-imposed sanctions on Russia that prohibit western financing and technology transfer to some Russian energy projects, Total is continuing to pursue a natural gas project in Yamal, a joint venture with Russia’s Novatek and China’s CNPC.

“Can we live without Russian gas in Europe? The answer is no. Are there any reasons to live without it? I think – and I’m not defending the interests of Total in Russia – it is a no,” the Total boss told Reuters back in summer.

Meanwhile, another Total project, with Russia’s sanctions-hit Lukoil, is “definitely stopped,” de Margerie said in September, but since the project had not started it did not have “any impact” on Total, he told the Financial Times.

De Margerie had recently expressed his support for a wider use of other currencies in transactions outside the US – for oil purchases in particular – after the scandal involving France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, which was slapped with a record $9 billion fine and a 1-year dollar trading ban.

“Nothing prevents anyone from paying for oil in euros,” de Margerie said in July. “The price of a barrel of oil is quoted in dollars. A refinery can take that price and using the euro-dollar exchange rate on any given day, agree to make the payment in euros.”