A Russian passenger jet has crashed killing 44 people on board including almost all the players and coaches of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a top professional hockey team that plays in the Kontinental Hockey League. Doctors were fighting to save the life of Alexander Galimov, who plays for Lokomotiv and Russia’s national team. He is reported to have suffered terrible burns.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane carrying the team hit a riverbank on the Volga River immediately after leaving an airport near the western city of Yaroslavl, 240 kilometres northeast of Moscow. Weather was not believed to be a factor.
Russian media quoted a flight traffic controller saying the plane had failed to gain adequate height on takeoff. Witnesses said the plane rose no more than 10m before crashing and bursting into flames. The nose of the plane plunged into the river, leaving the rear part of the plane on dry land.
Confirmed among those killed are Lokomotiv’s Canadian head coach and seven former NHL players:
Head Coach-Brad McCrimmon, 52: 1222-game NHL career as a defenceman, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers, most recently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.
Center-Pavol Demitra, 36: 847-game NHL career, three-time NHL all-star, Lady Byng Trophy 1999-2000; St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.
Defenceman-Karel Rachunek, 32: 371-game NHL career; Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers.
Defenceman-Ruslan Salei, 36: 917-game NHL career; Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche.
Defenceman-Karlis Skrastins, 37: 832-game NHL career; Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
Defenceman-Josef Vasicek, 30: 460-game NHL career, 2006 Stanley Cup winner Carolina Hurricanes; New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.
Asst. Coach-Alexander Karpovtsev, 41: 596-game NHL career, 1994 Stanley Cup winner New York Rangers; New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Asst. Coach Igor Korolev, 41: 795-game NHL career: Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.
Players and officials from leagues across North America and Europe expressed their shock and sadness Wednesday. “Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world — including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends who at one time excelled in our League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a news release. “Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished.”
The Kontinental Hockey league, is a professional league made up of 20 Russian teams and one each from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. The 2011-2012 season began on Wednesday.