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7 Sep, 2021 14:36

Russia remembers: Services mark 10 years since tragic air crash which wiped out Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team (VIDEO)

Services have been held to mark the 10th anniversary of the air crash which killed players and staff of Russian ice hockey club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Claiming 44 lives, the aviation disaster is among the worst in sports history.

Forty-five people were on board the Yak-42 charter flight which took off from Tunoshna Airport near Yaroslavl on September 7, 2011.

Alongside the eight crew members were 37 players and staff from KHL club Lokomotiv, bound for Belarusian capital Minsk to play the opening game of the season against local club Dinamo.

All but one of those on board would lose their lives. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft struck an antenna mast and burst into flames, crashing into the banks of the Tunoshonka River.

Aircraft engineer Alexander Sizov and Lokomotiv player Alexander Galimov were the only two people to survive the initial impact, but the latter would die of his injuries in a Moscow hospital five days later.

RT

Marking a decade since the tragedy, memorial services began on Tuesday at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Yaroslavl, which lies just over 250km (160 miles) to the northeast of Moscow.

Later on Tuesday, a service was held at a nearby cemetery where victims of the tragedy are buried. Others laid flowers outside ‘Arena 2000’, where Lokomotiv play their home games.

A ceremony is also planned at a memorial complex at site of the crash, while the KHL has announced a minute’s silence will be held before matches on Tuesday.

RT

Among that at the services were family and friends of the victims, as well as regional governor Dmitry Mironov, current KHL president Alexey Morozov, and first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.

The ambassadors of the Czech Republic and Slovakia also paid their respects. Czech and Slovak players had been among the victims of the tragedy, as well as others from Germany, Sweden, Belarus, Ukraine and Latvia, and Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon.

On Tuesday evening, Lokomotiv will host Dinamo Minsk, who will wear uniforms in the style of the 2011-12 season in another mark of respect.

Tributes were also paid on social media, where any tribal rivalries between Russian sports clubs were cast aside in a show of unity.

The tragedy a decade ago plunged Russia – and the wider hockey world – into deep mourning.

It is remembered on the scale of aviation sporting catastrophes such as the Munich air disaster of 1958, which devastated Manchester United football club, or the Marshall University football team tragedy of 1970 in the United States.

The Lokomotiv team had reached the final of the Gagarin Cup just two years previously, but saw the squad wiped out along with four youth-team prospects. Only one member of the squad, Maksim Zyuzyakin, avoided tragedy after remaining behind for the Dinamo match due to injury.

RT

Then-KHL President Alexander Medvedev had offered an emergency draft to help the club play in the 2011-12 season, but Lokomotiv opted to spend one year rebuilding in the second-tier VHL before returning.

Regular tributes to the victims of the crash are still held before Lokomotiv matches.

An investigation into the crash found that one of the two pilots had inadvertently stepped on the brake pedal during takeoff, preventing the plane from gaining enough takeoff speed. Improper oversight and insufficient crew training were cited as key reasons behind the fatal error.

In September of 2015, a Yaroslavl district court sentenced the deputy CEO of the Yak-Service Airlines, Vadim Timofeyev, to five years in prison over the crash, but he was immediately released under a 2015 Victory Day amnesty.

Timofeyev had pleaded not guilty, blaming the crash on poorly stored cargo on board the aircraft. It was also reported the team’s luggage had not been weighed before the departure.