Christophe de Margerie, chairman and CEO of French oil giant Total SA, was killed when his corporate jet collided with a snow removal machine Monday night at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, the company said in a press release dated Oct. 21 and posted on its website.
Airport officials told Russia's Tass news agency that the collision occurred at 11:57 p.m. Monday, killing de Margerie and three crew members, all of them French citizens.
A representative of the transport investigative department told Tass that the French-made Dassault Falcon 50 business jet, headed for France, collided with the snow removal machine during takeoff. Airport officials said the driver of the snow removal machine was not hurt.
Visibility at the time of the crash was 1,150 feet, airport officials told Tass.
De Margerie, 63, joined Total after graduating from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in 1974, according to the company's website. He rose through the ranks became a member of Total's policy-making executive committee in 1999. He became CEO in 2007, and added the post of chairman in 2010.
Paris-based Total is the fifth-largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world, with exploration and production operations in more than 50 countries, according to a profile on the company's website.
De Margerie was on a list of attendees at a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki, near Moscow, on Monday. With his distinctive bushy mustache and outspoken manner, he was one of the most recognizable figures among the world's top oil executives.
A staunch defender of Russia and its energy policies amid the conflict in Ukraine, de Margerie told Reuters in a July interview that Europe should stop thinking about cutting its dependence on Russian gas and focus instead on making those deliveries safer.
He said tensions between the West and Russia were pushing Moscow closer to China, as illustrated by a $400 billion deal to supply Beijing with gas that was clinched in May.
Total is one of the top foreign investors in Russia.
Despite the July 17 downing of a Malaysian passenger airliner over Ukrainian territory held by pro-Russian rebels, which worsened Russia’s relations with the West, Total said last month that sanctions would not stop it from working on the Yamal project.
A $27 billion joint venture investment, it was set up to tap vast natural gas reserves in northwest Siberia with the goal of doubling Russia's stake in the fast-growing market for liquefied natural gas.
De Margerie said then that Europe could not live without Russian gas, adding there was no reason to do so.
Al Jazeera and wire services