Source : Guardian UK
condolences to the players', staff's families
The medium-range Yak-42 aircraft crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from an airport near Yaroslavl in western Russia at about 4pm local time. It was carrying the city's Lokomotiv ice hockey team to a match in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, scheduled for Thursday night.
TV showed emergency officials wading out to blazing lumps of wreckage in the Volga river, about 160 miles north-east of Moscow. Seven crew and 36 members of the team and coaching staff died.
Among them were players from Germany, Sweden and Slovakia, as well as Brad McCrimmon, the club's Canadian coach. Doctors were fighting to save the life of two survivors – crew member Alexander Sizov and Alexander Galimov, who plays for Lokomotiv and Russia's national team. He is reported to have suffered terrible burns.
Ice hockey is hugely popular in Russia and the disaster is comparable in magnitude to the Munich air disaster in 1958 that killed eight members of the Manchester United football team and several staff.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, who is due in Yaroslavl on Thursday for a political forum, expressed his "deepest condolences to the loved ones of the Yaroslavl air crash victims, and to all Lokomotiv Yaroslavl fans".
David Kaminski-Morrow, an aviation expert at Flightglobal said the operator of the jet in question had come under scrutiny over safety standards from Russian and European regulators.
The Yak-42, in use since 1993, took off in clear weather but reportedly struck an airport antenna.
Russian media quoted a flight traffic controller saying the plane had failed to gain adequate height on takeoff. Witnesses said the plane rose no more than 10m before crashing and bursting into flames. The nose of the plane plunged into the Volga, leaving the rear part of the plane on dry land.
It was the latest in a series of air catastrophes in Russia. A Tupolev Tu-134 crashed near Petrozavodsk killing 44 people in June and a Tu-154 ploughed into trees in Smolensk in April 2010, killing a Polish delegation of more than 90 people, including president Lech Kaczynski.
Vladislav Tretyak, the president of Russia's ice hockey federation, said he was devastated: "There were a lot of players who could have played in the national team, and in the future at the Olympic Games in Sochi [in 2014]. We will do our best to ensure that hockey in Yaroslavl does not die, and that it continues to live for the people that were on that plane."
Lokomotiv play in the Kontinental Hockey league, which is made of 20 Russian teams and one each from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. The 2011-2012 season began on Wednesday.
Several members of the Lokomotiv team had previously played in the North American NHL, including Josef Vasicek, who played for the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders; and Pavol Demitra who played for the Ottawa Senators from 1993-1996, the St Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks from 2008 to last year.
Lokomotiv's international contingent also included Stefan Liv of Sweden, Czech Republic player Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek, who played for the Ottawa Senators from 2000 to 2004. He also played for the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.