Russian jet carrying hockey team crashes, 43 dead


#1

STORY

By LYNN BERRY - Associated Press

TUNOSHNA, Russia (AP) — A Russian jet carrying a top ice hockey team crashed into a river bank Wednesday while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured, officials said.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed in sunny weather immediately after leaving an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.

It said the plane was carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season of the Kontinental Hockey League. The ministry was carrying 45 people, including 37 passengers and eight crew, and two people survived the crash.

It wasn’t immediately clear which players were on board the Yak-42. Officials said player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crewmember.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately sent the nation’s transport minister to the site, 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Yaroslavl.

The plane that crashed was relatively new, built in 1993, and belonged to a small Yak Service company.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is a leading force in Russian hockey and came third in the KHL last year. The team’s coach is Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who took over in May. He was mosly recently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, and played 18 years in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix.

The Russian team also featured several top European players and former NHL stars, including Slovakian forward and national team captain Pavol Demitra, who played in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks.

Other top names include forward Josef Vasicek of the Czech Republic, Czech defenseman Karel Rachunek, Russian defensemen Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins, and Swedish goalie Stefan Liv.

The KHL is an international club league that pits together teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. Lokomotiv was a three-time Russian League champion in 1997, 2002-2003. It took bronze last season.

Swarms of police and rescue crews rushed to Tunoshna, a picturesque village with a blue-domed church on the banks of the Volga River.

One resident, Irina Pryakhova, saw the plane going down.

“It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong,” she said. “It went down behind the trees and there was a bang and a plume of smoke.”

She said rescuers pulled victims’ bodies out of the Volga River. “I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats with seatbelts on,” Pryakhova said.

A cup match between hockey teams Salavat Yulaev and Atlant in the central Russian city of Ufa was called off midway after news of the crash was announced by Konintental Hockey League head Alexander Medvedev.

Russian television broadcast images of an empty arena in Ufa as grief-stricken fans abandoned the stadium.

“We will do our best to ensure that hockey in Yaroslavl does not die, and that it continues to live for the people that were on that plane,” said Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak.

President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year. The short- and medium-range Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 and about 100 are still in service with Russian carriers.

In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people. The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.


#2

A shame and a huge loss for hockey as well as for Russia. The Yak-42s need to be out of service—there’s been far too many accidents and serious incidents with these aircraft, although in this case may have been pilot error.


#3

Unfortunately, as a hockey fan here in Southern California, I knew one of the players on board the ill-fated Yak-42, Ruslan “Rusty” Salei, who once played with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. As a partial season ticket holder I remember meeting and conversing with Rusty at events such as “Dux in Tux” where I found him to be a really warm and “down-to-earth” individual. They always say that of all the professional athletes in North America the hockey players are the most regular guys. I’m extremely saddened that Rusty leaves behind a wife and three children, and only at age 36.


#4

Agreed. My son youth travel hockey so we see alot of the pro’s as he plays against their children. We also go to St Louis Blues practices which is a pretty intimate setting and puts a personal feeling to seeing the pros. A couple weeks ago Bob Plager was watching Barrett Jackman’s two children while daddy practiced. Seeing the personal side of these guys brings an event like this home. Being a part of aviation also makes me think of the crew. Very sad all the way around.
I agree with the fact that hockey guys are the most stand up of them all. We’ve met quite a few from Bobby Hull all the way down to kids that play Juniors. Nearly all of them have been class acts!


#5

Russian crash probe: Engines running til the end

MOSCOW (AP) — All three engines on a Russian jet that slammed into a riverbank were operating up until the moment of the crash and the plane’s stabilizer and flaps were in a proper position for takeoff, Russian experts said Friday.

Still, the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, which is conducting the crash probe, had no conclusions yet about the cause of the crash that killed 43 people, mostly members of a top Russian ice hockey team.

The comments came as aviation experts examined flight data recorders from the crashed plane and began safety checks Friday on Yak-42 jets nationwide.

The chartered Yak-42 jet crashed Wednesday into the sides of the Volga River on a sunny, clear day moments after taking off near Yaroslavl, a city 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.

It was one of the worst aviation disasters ever in sports, shocking Russia and the world of hockey, for among the dead were 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus, to play its opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season.

Two men survived the crash — player Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov — but they were in critical condition Friday, both in medicated comas after being transferred to Moscow for treatment. Hospital officials said Galimov had burns over 90 percent of his body.

The Interstate Aviation Committee said magnetic tapes holding the flight information in the data recorders were wet, but its experts have begun deciphering those segments that have dried out, learning about the engines. The committee didn’t specify, however, whether the engines were giving the full thrust.

The Tunoshna airport’s runway was three times longer than required for that type of plane but the plane had still failed to accelerate sufficiently before takeoff, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov said.

Authorities were also checking fuel supplies at the Tunoshna airport, suspecting that low quality fuel could have caused the crash. The airport has been allowed to resume operations but planes were barred from using local fuel.

Yaroslavl Gov. Sergei Vakhrukov, however, insisted that the fuel couldn’t have been the cause, since another plane using the same fuel had flown without any problems.

The crashed jet was built in 1993 and one of its three engines was replaced a month ago, transportation officials said.

Aviation authorities also were running safety checks on all the approximately 60 Yak-42 jets currently in service in Russia, which was expected to lead to disruptions in service. An Associated Press reporter was among the passengers ordered to disembark Friday from a Yak-42 jet bound on an internal flight from Moscow.

In Yaroslavl, where there has been an outpouring of public grief over the deaths of the hockey players, a memorial service was to be held Saturday at the team’s arena. Several squads from the Kontinental Hockey League were traveling to Yaroslavl to take part.

Thousands of fans have already come to the Yaroslavl arena to pay their respects, laying mounds of red roses and carnations outside its walls.

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for sweeping reforms to Russia’s aviation industry, including replacing aging Russian jets with Western planes.

Experts blame Russia’s poor aviation safety record on an aging fleet, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.