Dozens dead in Russian hockey team plane crash

Wed Sep 7, 2011 6:39pm EDT
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By Timothy Heritage

TUNOSHNA, Russia (Reuters) - A passenger plane carrying a Russian ice hockey team to a season-opening match crashed after takeoff from a provincial airport on Wednesday, killing 43 people and plunging the Russian and international sports world into grief.

The Yak-42 aircraft slammed into a river bank near Yaroslavl, home city of the Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv, whose Russian and foreign stars were on board flying to a match in Minsk, Belarus.

Among international victims were three Czech world champions, a Swedish goalkeeper, a renowned Slovak forward and a Canadian coach. Many had played around the world, including in North America's National Hockey League.

"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport," International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said in a statement posted on the federation website after the crash of the Yak-42 aircraft.

"This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations."

The crash raises concerns about Russian aviation safety. A crash less than three months ago killed 45 people.

The Russian-made plane was carrying 37 passengers and eight crew when it crashed a few miles from the airport at Tunoshna outside Yaroslavl, 150 miles north of Moscow, the Emergencies Ministry said.

"I heard a big bang and then a louder one 10 seconds later," said Andrei Gorshkov, a 16-year-old Tunoshna resident. "Flames shot high and a column of black smoke rose into the air."   Continued...

<p>Fans shout slogans as they march through a city commemorating the victims of a plane crash, in downtown Yaroslavl September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>