At least 43 people are dead after a Russian jet carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff in the western Russian city, according to reports.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the plane — a Yak-42 — crashed immediately after taking off from an airport nearly Yaroslavl, which is about 150 miles northeast of Moscow.
Lokomotiv was en route to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, for a its Kontinental Hockey League season opener on Thursday against Dinamo Minsk.
Only two of the 45 people on board (37 passengers and eight crew) survived the crash, and both suffered grave injuries, according to officials. There are 26 players listed on Lokomotiv’s roster on the team’s Web site. As of July 9, former NHL players on the team included: Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek, Rusland Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek. Brad McCrimmon, a former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman was listed as Lokomotiv’s head coach.
UPDATE (11:30 a.m.): Sport-Express foreign correspondent and Washington Post contributor Slava Malamud reports Alexander Galimov was the lone player to survive but severe burns continue to threaten his life while he is treated at a nearby hospital. One male crewmember also survived.
Eleven foreign players were reportedly on the jet when it crashed including Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek of the Czech Republic and Latvian defenseman Karlis Skrastins. The Czech and Latvian embassies confirmed their deaths.
In a telephone interview with New York Times reporter Andrew E. Kramer, Vladimir N. Malkov, a spokesman for Lokomotiv said: “We have no team any more. All our starting players, and all the service people, they all burned in the crash.”
The Associated Press interviewed one resident who saw the plane going down and described the scene. “It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong,” Irina Pryakhova said. “I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats with seatbelts on.”
Former Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in July, was rumored to join Lokomotiv this summer, but remained with the Avalanche instead. Varlamov played for the three-time KHL champions from Lokomotiv from 2004-08.
“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,” Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak said.
In June, 47 people died and eight more were injured when a RusAir plane crashed in northwestern Russia while trying to land in heavy fog.
(H/T Puck Daddy)