Russian Plane Crash Kills Top Ice-Hockey Team

MOSCOW — A Russian airliner carrying a top local ice-hockey team north of Moscow has crashed, killing 43 and leaving two critically injured.

The Yakovlev-42 passenger plane that was bound for the Belarusian capital of Minsk crashed when it failed to gather enough height after taking off from Yaroslavl Oblast’s Tunoshna airport, around 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

The crash, which took place in clear weather conditions, marks the second major air disaster in Russia this year and casts another shadow on Russia’s deplorable air-safety record.

“According to preliminary information, there were 45 people on board the airplane, including 37 passengers and eight crew members,” Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Sergei Miroshnichenko said at a news conference in Moscow.

“As of 6 p.m. [Moscow time], two people have been brought to a city hospital [in Yaroslavl] and 27 dead bodies have been found.”

Rescuers work on the river at the crash site of Russian Yak-42 jet near the city of Yaroslavl on September 7.

Entire Hockey Team On Plane

The crash will resonate in the world of ice hockey after confirmation that the plane was carrying the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team.

“The plane took off at 4 p.m. to play a game in Minsk, with the whole team on board, 37 people. The whole team,” Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club spokesman Vladimir Malkov told the Vesti television channel.

The famed ice hockey club, founded in 1949 and three-time Russian national champions, was due to play Dinamo Minsk on September 9 in the first match of the 2011-12 season for the Continental Hockey League (KHL).

The team is coached by Canadian national Brad McCrimmon and has several foreign players on its roster, including Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Czechs.

Interfax reported there were 11 foreigners on board the plane in total.

Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak offered condolences, “first of all to the families of the victims, and the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club. I’d like to say that this is a big loss for Russia’s hockey because there were a lot of good players on the team.”

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to visit the site of the crash in Yaroslav on September 8.

Rescue workers lift a stretcher with the body of a victim out of the river at the crash site.

Slew Of Accidents

This latest air disaster comes on the heels of the crash of a Tupolev Tu-134 plane on June 20 in Russia’s Karelia region that killed 47.

Another major catastrophe was narrowly averted on July 11 when the left engine of an Antonov-24 passenger plane burst into flames in midair. The pilot managed a crash landing.

Following that near-disaster, Medvedev issued an order grounding Russia’s aging Soviet-era fleet pending safety checks, with a view to phasing them out of use completely.

The deadly June crash was eventually found to be due to pilot error.

Corruption, lax safety precautions, cost-cutting on maintenance, and Russia’s infamously cavalier attitude toward safety are considered factors in the country’s dismal air safety record.

Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika has ordered an investigation into transport-safety-legislation compliance by Yak Service, the company that owned the Yak-42 passenger plane, as well as the airport and transport administration services.

The Yakovlev-42 model was produced in the 1970s and 80s as a replacement to the Tupolev-134 and Antonov series.

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