Top KHL squad killed in passenger plane crash in Russia
HK Lokomotiv confirmed that its entire 37-strong main squad was on board the Yak-42. They were traveling to the Belarusian capital Minsk. Eleven of the victims were foreign players for the club. The squad included three players from the Czech Republic, two Ukrainians as well as athletes from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden.“Yaroslavl is my home team. We supported it. We loved this team and we were shocked when we found out. We went to all their games, knew all of them by name. It’s very difficult,” an eyewitness told RT.The two survivors are in a serious condition and have been taken to hospital. One of them is team member Aleksandr Galimov. The other is a flight engineer, preliminary reports say.“Galimov has burns to 80 per cent of his body, the crew member has broken bones and lacerations in addition to massive burns,” Dr. Viktor Berezin from the hospital’s burn trauma department told Interfax.Aviation authorities say the Yak-42 underwent all the routine checks before being cleared for the flight and was in good condition.It is the first-ever fatal crash involving a sports team in modern Russia. Soviet Union’s worst incident of this kind was the 1979 mid-air collision of two Tupolev Tu-134s in Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine. Seventeen players and staff of the then-Soviet top-division Pakhtakor Football Club team died in the crash.Tragic roll-call of sports teams in air disastersThe Yaroslavl HC Lokomotiv were Russian Champions in 1997, 2002 and 2003. The squad was to play a match against Mink HC Dinamo on Thursday.The heads of the KHL have held an urgent meeting to discuss the measures to be taken following the tragic crash and death of the Yaroslavl team. The Salavat Ulaev versus Atlant match, which is the opening battle of the league season, was cancelled by the KHL.
President Dmitry Medvedev is to visit the crash site on Thursday. He offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims and to fans of the club over the tragedy.Visitors of the International Political Forum, who are visiting Yaroslavl at the moment, held a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of the crash. The Russian Hockey Federation voiced its condolences to the Lokomotiv club, the families of the victims and the entire ice hockey community.Leaders and officials from a number of countries, including Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia and Germany among others have expressed their regrets after hearing the news of the tragedy. The International Ice Hockey Federation and national hockey federations and other sporting organizations from Belarus, Georgia and other countries also offered their condolences.
Hockey fans in Moscow are gathering in Red Square near the Kremlin to honor the deceased Lokomotiv players and the other victims of the crash. In Minsk, people are laying flowers in front of the stadium where the team was scheduled to play on Thursday. Yaroslavl fans have placed a giant club flag on the ground in front of its training base. They are also gathering at one of the city’s squares to mark the loss of their team.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the incident and sent a team of forensic experts from Moscow to Yaroslavl, according to the spokesman for the committee, Vladimir Markin.The Interstate Aviation Committee, a regional regulating body, has launched its own probe into the cause of the crash.Prime Minister Putin ordered Transport Minister Igor Levitin to organize the initial part of the investigation at the scene.Investigators have only just begun collecting evidence and data from the fatal Yak-42 plane crash. All possible causes for the tragedy are being considered – but sources within the investigative teams say the main focus is on technical failure and human error.