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Russian Hockey Team’s Jet Crash Kills 43; Medvedev to Visit Site

Russian Hockey Team’s Plane Crashes Into River, 43 Dead
A TV grab from Russian NTV channel showing rescuers inspecting remains of a plane at a crash site in Russia’s Yaroslavl region. Photographer: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

The death toll from the crash of a Russian plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team rose to 43 as all but two of the people on board were killed.

Lokomotiv player Alexander Galimov is in critical condition, according to Yaroslavl Governor Sergey Vakhrukov’s press service. An airplane crew member -- identified as Alexander Sizov on the Kontinental Hockey League website -- was also hospitalized.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who was scheduled to host a global policy forum in the region where the plane crashed, has changed his plans and will visit the site today. The plane, a Soviet-era Yakovlev-42 aircraft, had failed to gain altitude when taking off from the Tunoshna airport in the Yaroslavl region about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north-west of Moscow on the opening day of the KHL season.

“We have been hit by a deep sorrow,” Alexander Medvedev, the head of the league and an OAO Gazprom executive, said on national television.

Lokomotiv, a three-time national champion, was coached by former Detroit Red Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon, a 52-year-old Canadian, and its roster lists former National Hockey League players Pavol Demitra, who played for the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks; Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Karlis Skrastins.

The plane crash is a blow to the fledgling Russian league, which started in 2008 and has attracted players including former New York Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr, the ninth-leading scorer in NHL history. The accident happened just after 4 p.m. local time yesterday at a tributary that feeds into the Volga.

The Entire Team

“The whole team was on the plane,” Vladimir Malkov, Lokomotiv’s spokesman, said in comments broadcast on state television. There were eight crew members on board, Yelena Kalabushkina, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Ministry said by phone.

Demitra spent his last two years in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, after stops in Ottawa and Minnesota.

“Pavol was dedicated and passionate about his young family and the game of hockey,” the Canucks said in a statement on the team website. “Pavol was a valued teammate and member of our organization and will be sorely missed.”

The KHL is made up of 24 teams, split between two conferences, in Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan.

The league and the NHL have been at odds in recent years over the KHL attempting to entice NHL players to break their contracts and join the Russian league.

League Tensions

Tensions between the league peaked before 2008-09 season when the KHL signed right wing Alexander Radulov, the 15th overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft, away from the Nashville Predators while he was still under an NHL contract.

Swedish national team ice-hockey goaltender Stefan Liv was also on the team. The KHL website said that McCrimmon, a Canadian, was on the plane, as were two members of the 2010 world champion Czech Republic team, Jan Marek and Vasicek. Alexander Karpovtsev, a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup winning New York Rangers team, and Igor Korolev, who played 12 seasons in the NHL, were assistant coaches.

Player Alexander Galimov is in critical condition with burns over 80 percent of his body, Governor Sergey Vakhrukov’s press service said by telephone. An airplane crew member -- identified as Alexander Sizov on the KHL website -- was also hospitalized, Vakhrukov said.

The plane was developed during the Soviet era by the Yakovlev Design Bureau, and has been in commercial service for more than 30 years. Eight Yak-42s have crashed with 570 fatalities since they entered service in 1975, the New York Times reported.

Several Accidents

The aircraft has three rear-mounted jet engines and typically flies as many as 120 passengers. It has been involved in several crashes, including an accident involving a Ukrainian plane which killed all crew and 60 Spanish peacekeeping soldiers near the Black Sea city of Trabzon. A probe has been opened into the cause of today’s accident, according to the Russian Investigative Committee.

The plane was headed to Minsk, Belarus, for a game today, according to the KHL website. Alexander Medvedev canceled yesterday’s opening KHL game in Russia’s Bashkortostan region.

Club supporters piled as much as two meters of flowers, scarves, and flags on tables at the arena. Outside, fans made a shrine with candles and more scarves. In Yaroslavl, cars honked their horns in mourning.

‘Lokomotiv is Everything’

“Lokomotiv is everything for Yaroslavl,” said Oleg Mayorov, a 35-year-old singer in a disco-ska band who came to the arena with his wife and two daughters to pay their respects. “This is the only thing that unites everybody in the city.”

McCrimmon played 18 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix. The Plenty, Saskatchewan, native won the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989.

McCrimmon was in his first year with Lokomotiv, which he joined in May, 10 days after resigning from his assistant coach job with the Red Wings.

Karpovtsev, along with Rangers’ teammates Sergei Nemchinov, Sergei Zubov and Alexei Kovalev, were the first Russian-born players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Two former Jersey Devils were part of the team, the NHL franchise said in a statement on its website.

“Alexander Vasyunov, who played for us last season, was an outstanding young man and a gifted athlete,” President Lou Lamoriello said in the statement. “Captain Karel Rachunek skated for us in 2007-08. Both were members of the Devils family.”

NHL, Czech Republic

Rachunek, 32, played in NHL with three teams. Skrastins, 37, played in NHL with four teams including last season with the Dallas Stars.

Salei, 36, was the first-round pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 1996 NHL draft. He played for four teams including last season with the Detroit Red Wings. Jan Marek, 31, never joined an NHL team. He played in the Czech Republic and Russia after being drafted by the Rangers in 2003.

Josef Vasicek, 30, played on three teams, most recently the New York Islanders in 2007-08. Demitra, 36, signed with Lokomotiv in 2010 after 847 games in 16 seasons with five teams, including the Ottawa Senators.

“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 statement.

Manchester United

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl joins England’s Manchester United soccer club and the Marshall University football team as sports teams affected by accidents.

United’s plane crashed taking off from a refueling stop in Munich on a trip back from a 5-4 victory over Red Star Belgrade in February 1958. Twenty-two people were killed, including seven players, and another player died of his injuries 15 days later.

Seventy-five people were killed in November 1970 as a plane carrying Marshall’s football team crashed while attempting to land in Huntington, West Virginia. Most of the team, the coaching staff, flight crew and supporters were killed.

Passenger List, according to Emergency Ministry’s website:
Andrey Solontsev
Igor Zhevelov
Sergey Zhuravlev
Vladimir Matyushkin
Alexander Sizov
Elena Sarmatova
Nadezhda Maksumova
Elena Chavigny

Vitaly Anikeyenko
Yuriy Bakhvalov
Alexander Belyaev
Mikhail Balandin
Alexander Vasyunov
Joseph Vasicek
Alexander Vyukhin
Alexander Galimov
Robert Dietrich
Pavol Demitra
Andrey Zimin
Marat Kalimullin
Alexander Karpovtsev
Alexander Kalyanin
Andrey Kiryukhin
Nikita Klyukin
Igor Korolev
Nikolai Krivonosov
Eugene Kunnov
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov
Stefan Liv
Jan Marek
Brad McCrimmon
Sergey Ostapchuk
Vladimir Piskunov
Karel Rachunek
Evgeny Sidorov
Karlis Skrastins
Ruslan Salei
Pavel Snurnitsyn
Daniil Sobchenko
Ivan Tkachenko
Paul Trakhanov
Igor Urychev
Gennady Churilov
Maxim Shuvalov
Artem Yarchuk

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