Christophe de Margerie, head of oil firm Total, was killed in a collision between a private jet and a snow plough in Moscow last night.
Mr de Margerie, 63, was the only passenger on-board with three French crew members, all of whom died as the Dassault Falcon plane was about to take-off for from Vnukovo international airport.
A fire broke out after the accident, which was extinguished by airport firefighters, and the driver escaped unharmed from the crash that was initially thought to have been caused by pilot or air traffic controller error.
An investigation has been launched into alleged breaches of aviation safety causing multiple deaths through negligence, and the plane’s black boxes have been removed for examination.
"At the moment, it is already established that the driver of the snow plough was in a condition of alcoholic intoxication," said Russia's Investigative Committee.
The Russian capital saw its first snowfall of the winter yesterday and visibility was at 350 metres at the same of the fatal accident, the airport said.
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Hours before the collision, the chief executive had met Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev at his home in the suburbs of Moscow to discuss foreign investment in the country.
Affectionately known as “Big Moustache”, Mr de Margerie was on a list of attendees at a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki on the same day.
As a vocal supporter of the country and its energy policies, the French CEO said in July that Europe should focus on safer delivery of energy from Russia rather than thinking of cutting ties amid the conflict with Ukraine.
After graduating from Paris' Ecole Superieure de Commerce in 1974, he became chief executive officer of Total in February 2007, taking on the additional role of chairman in May three years later.
Total SA is France’s second-biggest listed company with a market value of €102bn.
De Margerie was the son of diplomats and business leaders, and the grandson of Pierre Taittinger, founder of Taittinger champagne and the luxury goods dynasty.
“His death is a big loss for the global oil/gas industry,” said Gordon Kwan, head of Asia-Pacific oil and gas research at the financial company Nomura.
French prime minister Manuel Valls said: "France is losing an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant.”Reuse content