September 22, 2017

Top Russian ice hockey team wiped out in air crash

The wreckage of the YAK-42 in the Volga River.

A chartered jet carrying Russia’s major league ice hockey team Lokomotiv has crashed on take-off near the central city of Yaroslavl, killing 43 people. The team was heading to Belarus for the first match of the new season.

Two people have survived the crash but with serious injuries. Russian player Alexander Galimov survived the crash with 80% burns along with a member of the crew.

Reports in Russia say the YAK-42 plane was struggling for height and may have hit a radio mast. Thet appears many of the team were aboard, heading to Belarus for the season’s first match.

Witnesses saw it burst into flames shortly after taking off from the airport, about 250km north-east of Moscow. Some of the wreckage and bodies fell in the nearby River Volga.

A number of foreign citizens were killed, including the team’s Canadian coach, Brad McCrimmon, and Swedish goalie Stefan Liv. The team also contained players from Germany, The Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovakia.

The chairman of the board of directors of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Vyacheslav Fetisov, described the air disaster as an “irreparable loss for world ice hockey”. Ice hockey is Russia’s national game.

Local resident Irina Prakhova saw the plane going down, then heard a loud bang and saw a plume of smoke.

“It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong,” she said. “I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats with seatbelts on.”