MOSCOW – A Soviet-designed passenger jet carrying members of one of Russia’s top professional hockey teams crashed on takeoff Wednesday, killing 43 people and casting a pall over the closely linked worlds of North American, European and Russian hockey.
Forty-three people are feared dead after a plane carrying a Russian hockey team crashed Wednesday about 150 miles northeast of Moscow. Video and image courtesy of Reuters.
The plane, carrying the Lokomotiv team from Yaroslavl, crashed on takeoff from the squad’s hometown airport in western Russia. The team, which featured several top European players and former stars of North America’s National Hockey League, was en route to its season-opening game in Belarus.
Russian officials said only two people, a crew member and a player, survived. They said 11 foreigners were among the dead.
Czech hockey player Jan Marek, here lifting the trophy after beating Russia in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship final in Cologne, Germany, in May 2010, was among the victims of the crash.
Among those on the official passenger list that are presumed dead are Pavol Demitra, a Slovakian forward and national team captain who played in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, and coach Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian who took over in May after working as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings. Mr. McCrimmon had played 18 years in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix. Russian officials said a Canadian was among the dead but didn’t immediately identify him.
Also on board were Czech forward Josef Vasicek, who played six seasons for the Carolina Hurricanes and won a Stanley Cup with them in 2006; veteran NHL defenseman Karel Rachunek of the Czech Republic; and goalie Stefan Liv, whose Swedish national team won the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Belarussian forward Ruslan Salei was on board, according to the passenger
list and the Anaheim Ducks, for whom he played during an NHL career that spanned from 1996 to 2011. Russian news agencies had earlier reported Mr. Salei wasn’t on the plane because he had traveled to Minsk on his own.
Officials said team forward Alexander Galimov survived but is in grave condition, with burns over 90% of his body. The surviving crew member, co-pilot Alexander Sizov, wasn’t as severely injured, the Interfax news agency reported.
Lokomotiv’s Yak-42 mid-range jet – operated by Yak-Servis, a Moscow-based charter and VIP airline – failed to gain altitude after takeoff in clear weather from the airport in Yaroslavl, hit an antenna on a radio beacon beyond the runway and crashed in flames on a bank of the Volga river, Interfax reported.
Russia’s airlines have a spotty safety record and past crashes have been blamed on aging aircraft, poor maintenance and crew training and inadequate airport infrastructure.
In 2009, Yak-Servis’s planes were grounded for two months by Russian regulators, who cited “major safety deficiencies,” according to a European Union aviation-safety report. In 2010, the EU banned the company’s two older Yak-40 planes from operating in Europe because they lacked modern safety gear.
Yak-Servis couldn’t be reached for comment. Lifenews. ru, a Russian online-news site, showed a video of its general director, Oleg Silnitsky, saying the crash’s cause remains unclear and that the plane, produced in 1993, had been inspected in July.