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French Oil Giant Total Names New CEO

FILE - A handout photo released by Total shows Total Refining & Chemicals chief and Executive Committee member Patrick Pouyanne in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 2, 2012

The French oil giant Total has appointed a new chief executive officer to replace Christophe de Margerie, the company's CEO and board chairman who died Monday when his private jet hit a snow plow while taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.

In an emergency meeting Wednesday, Total's board of directors named Patrick Pouyanné, the company's head of refining and chemicals, as CEO. It also appointed Thierry Desmarest, a former Total CEO, as chairman of its board of directors.

Both appointees are engineers by training and graduates of the famous École Polytechnique of France.

A team of French aviation experts arrived in Russia late Tuesday to help investigate the crash that killed de Margerie and his jet's three crew members.

The team includes national air safety officials and representatives from the companies that made and operated the private jet, which caught fire after hitting the snow plow.

Russian officials suspect the plow driver, Vladimir Martynenko, was drunk at the time of the crash and they have opened a criminal investigation.

Martynenko’s lawyer said his client does not drink alcohol because of a heart condition.

Nicknamed "Big Moustache" for his bushy facial hair, de Margerie became chief executive officer of Total in 2007. He added Chairman to the title three years later.

Before becoming CEO, de Margerie headed Total's Middle East division during the United Nations' corruption-marred oil-for-food program in Iraq in the 1990s.

Total operates with nearly 100,000 employees in more than 130 countries.

Some information in this report was provided by Reuters.