A Lithuanian Airlines Yakolev YAK-42, much like the YAK-42 that crashed Wednesday while the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey was aboard.
Pictured: Yak-42 plane much like the one Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was aboard when it crashed during take-off. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Dean Morley/Flickr)

In an event that will be remembered as a great tragedy in Russian sports, a Yak-42 plane carrying the popular Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed during take-off Wednesday afternoon. Forty-five are confirmed dead, according to some sources and two have survived, reports RIA Novosti. The cause of the accident has not been established.

Yak-42 was carrying team to Minsk

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was en route to the Belarusian capital city of Minsk to begin play in the new KHL season. Moments after its 4 p.m. Moscow-time take-off (noon GMT) from Yaroslavl airport, the Yak-42 hit the ground and burst into flames. Witnesses confirmed hearing two loud bangs before the plane struck down.

“Passenger body parts were found in the Volga River, where part of the fuselage fell,” according to local police.

As a result of the catastrophe, the opening game of the KHL season between reigning champion Salavat Yulaev and Atlant in the city of Ufa was canceled.

A poor aviation safety record

The Yak-42 that carried Lokomotiv Yaroslavl had been in service since 1980. After expressing his condolences to the families of the victims, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has reportedly proclaimed that all Soviet-era planes will be removed from service by 2012.

A grim summer for hockey

Among those who lost their lives in the KHL plane crash were Lokomotiv Yaroslavl head coach Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian by birth and former Detroit Red Wings assistant. Top players from Russia, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were among those who died aboard the Yak-42. Some were former NHL stars in the U.S., including assistant coaches Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev. Former NHL players confirmed dead in the KHL plane crash include Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachůnek, Karlis Skrastinš, Josef Vasicek, Alexander Vasyunov and former draft picks Stefan Liv, Robert Dietrich, Jan Marek, Vitaly Anikienko and Ivan Tkachenko. Sergei Ostapchuk played two years in the Quebec Major Junior League.

The two survivors were Russian national hockey player Alexander Galimov and one of the plane’s flight crew, Alexander Sizov. Galimov has burns over 80 percent of his body.

‘The darkest day in the history of our sport’

Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, called KHL plane crash today “the darkest day in the history of our sport.” The hockey community has faced other deaths and controversy this year. The deaths of NHL players Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak were surrounded by controversy that focused on such issues as post-concussion syndrome, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.

Russia Today’s coverage of KHL plane crash

Sources

Associated Press: http://bit.ly/pmmWlO

RIA Novosti: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20110908/166504776.html

Sports Illustrated: http://nhl-red-light.si.com/2011/09/07/khl-crash-darkens-hockeys-grim-summer/

Yahoo! Sports: http://yhoo.it/khdtKV

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