Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry says at least 43 people have died in the crash of a Russian jet carrying the Lokomotiv team of the Kontinental Hockey League.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed immediately after leaving an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles northeast of Moscow. It was carrying 45 people, including 37 passengers and eight crew, and the ministry said all but two people were killed in the crash.
The plane went down and caught fire shortly after taking to the air. Preliminary reports say it had insufficient lift and hit a beacon tower. An air traffic controller told Itar-Tass, that the aircraft was some 50 to 60 meters above the ground when it tilted to the left and crashed, Russia Today reports.
"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," said Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak. To that end, legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov suggests every KHL team send at least one player to Lokomotiv to salvage the team's season.
Dmitry Chesnokov, who focuses on the KHL and Russian players for the Puck Daddy blog, reported this quote from a team official. "At first we didn't want to believe it. But right now there is no hope. The team is gone."
The Lokomotiv roster features a few former NHL players both on the roster and the coaching staff. The head coach is former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman Brad McCrimmon. Of the players, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Pavol Demitra and Karel Rachunek all spent varying times in the NHL. Ruslan Salei was also on the team and while reports were indicating he was not aboard the plane, it was later reported he was, in fact, among those aboard. Team officials did confirm the entire team was on the aircraft.
Demitra's agent, Matt Keator, confirmed he was among those to die in the crash. "People were drawn to Demo. He was a great friend and great teammate," Michael Russo quoted Keator as saying. "He was always the type to bring people together."
Chesnokov also reported that a team forward, Alexander Galimov, survived the crash, according to his agent. However, Chesnokov says his body is 80 percent covered in burns and "Neurologists are now saying Galimov is unlikely to survive his injuries even after the surgery. Docs keep fighting."
The second survivor is said to be a flight crew member, who is also in serious condition.
It is the latest tragedy to hit the hockey world in what has been a summer to forget.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press