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The head and deputy-head of Vnukovo Airport have resigned

RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov

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“Due to tragic events on the night of October 20 to 21, the head of the Vnukovo International Airport Andrey Diakov and deputy head, Lieutenant-General of Aviation in Reserve Sergey Solntsev, have resigned. The resignations have been accepted,” said a statement.

Along with the airport leaderships’ resignations, the provisional director of the airport, the head of the operation unit in the airfield and leading airfield maintenance engineer have been suspended, added the press service.

Vnukovo Airport is doing everything possible to ensure the tragedy is quickly and objectively investigated, said the press service, adding that despite the ongoing investigation the airport is still operating.

Earlier four Vnukovo Airport employees were detained and questioned, Russian Investigative Committee announced.

“The leading airfield maintenance engineer Vladimir Ledenev, who was managing the snow-removing work, flight operations director Roman Dunayev, trainee air traffic controller Svetlana Krivsun, and traffic controller Aleksander Kruglov, who was leading the air traffic at the time of the crash, have been detained,” Investigative Committee spokesperson Vladimir Markin said.

Those detained have been questioned as suspects in the incident, Markin noted as they are suspected of violating the security requirements of the flights and for failing to conduct ground checks, which investigators allege led to a tragedy.

Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) experts are continuing the investigation at Vnukovo Airport.

“At the moment, the IAC continues to work at the crash site. Fragments of the aircraft are being inspected,” the committee said in a press release Wednesday. “At the same time information is being gathered at the airport and the actions of air traffic control, emergency teams and other services are being analyzed,” the press release added.

Radar data and CCTV footage along with meteorological conditions at the time of the accident are also being evaluated with the participation of French specialists.

“IAC is confident that together with our French colleagues and aviation experts we will conduct the most thorough, independent and impartial investigation,” the committee’s press release said.

Vladimir Martynenko.(RIA Novosti / Alexander Karabanov)

Vladimir Martynenko.(RIA Novosti / Alexander Karabanov)

On Tuesday, IAC announced that it had set up a special commission to investigate the crash. Experts from French Land Transport Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) are in Moscow to assist the investigation which is considering two main possibilities into the cause of the fatal crash – a traffic control error and the actions of the snowplow driver.

The black boxes from the crash will take up to 3 days to decode, a spokesman from the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) said Wednesday.

“Experts have already begun decoding the data on the black boxes. The decoding will take two to three days. That’s in regard to the flight data recorder. The amount of time needed to transcribe the voice recorder depends on the French [experts].”

The committee maintains its finding that the snowplow driver had alcohol in his blood at the time of the accident, but the driver, Vladimir Martynenko, as well as his lawyer have denied the allegations.

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“When I lost the mark, I didn’t even notice that I entered the runway… The plane was taking off. I almost didn’t see or hear it because of the working machinery and there were no lights… So there was a crash,” Martynenko told the investigators during the first interrogation. The snow plow driver said that he never even noticed the lights from the jet as he believes he never drove onto the flight strip as he was making snow clearing rounds.

Martynenko’s lawyer in the meantime says his client is still in shock which may explain any inconsistencies in his testimony. He also said Martynenko is suffering from an acute heart condition and does not drink at all.

On Thursday, Martynenko was delivered to a Moscow court, where the request for his arrest is to be reviewed, RIA Novosti reported.

Officials from Investigative Committee demanded the detention of the snowplow driver until December 21, saying that if he is not held, he could warn “other participants in the crime.”

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