This is really tough to write about. Reports say at least 40 people of 42 total passengers have died in a horrific plane crash in Yaroslavl, Russia. The plane crashed just 2 km after takeoff, and was en route to Minsk, Belarus. The plane was carrying the entire KHL team Lokomotiv who were going to Minsk to play their season opener tomorrow.
Yaroslavl is one of the KHL's strongest teams. The team won three Russian Championships in 1997, 2002, and 2003. They won the Western Conference in 2009 and 2010, losing to Ak Bars Kazan in the Gagarin Cup Finals.
Their current roster includes former Olympians Stefan Liv (Sweden, 2006, gold medal), Ruslan Salei (Belarus, 1998, 2002, 2010), Karlis Skrastins (Latvia, 2002, 2006, 2010), Pavol Demitra (Slovakia, 2002, 2006, 2010), and Josef Vasicek (Czech Republic, 2010). It also included noted international players Jan Marek (Czech Republic), team captain Karel Rachunek (Czech Republic), Robert Deitrich (Germany), and two members of last year's gold medal winning Russian U20 team: Daniil Sobcehnko (who scored the fifth goal in the gold medal game) and defensemen Yuri Urychev. Longtime NHLer Brad McCrimmon was the team's new head coach.
There are reports that one of the survivors was a crew member and that one player, Alexander Galimov, also survived.
This is the worst tragedy in modern hockey history.
More on the planes from the Russian Today report:
The Yakovlev Yak-42 plane series was first designed in the 1970s in the USSR to replace obsolete mid-range Tupolev passenger jets. The Yakovlev plane in its various modifications can carry up to 120 passengers, while the maximum take-off weight is 57,500 kg.
Numerous Yak-42 planes have been sold to other countries, such as Macedonia, China or Cuba. During the Soviet-Afghan war, Soviet troops employed a number of Yak-42 vehicles.
One of the most recent Yak-42 crashes happened in May 2003 on a flight from Kyrgyzstan to Turkey, when a plane crashed into a mountain, taking the lives of all 75 people on board.
I'll update this as more news comes in.
UPDATE: Pavol Demitra has been confirmed dead at the age of 36. Alexander Galimov is in critical condition, having suffered 3rd degree burns on 80% of his body (per Dmitry Chesnekov and Slava Malamaud on Twitter). The Globe & Mail is reporting that Yuri Urychev was listed as injured, so whether he was on the flight or not is yet to be confirmed. EDIT: Urychev has been confirmed as dead. He was 20 years old.
The KHL has released the following statement:
On Wednesday, September 7th, the sport of hockey witnessed a devastating loss. A YK-42 plane that was carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team to its first game of the 2011/2012 Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) season in Minsk, crashed while departing from Yaroslavl.
KHL statement regarding today’s tragedy in Yaroslavl:
“We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club and the international hockey community. First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families and friends of the players, coaches and staff lost in today’s tragedy.
“We know that there are many in the KHL family who will be grieving with us. As the investigation of this tragedy progresses we will work closely with investigators, government officials, club executives and the Yaroslavl community. We are working to find an appropriate way to honor this club and begin the healing process from the deep loss so many of us feel today.
“We are aware that many of you have questions. This tragedy remains our primary focus. We ask for patience as we find an appropriate way to proceed with the 2011/2012 season. We will continue to communicate our plans as they take shape."
UPDATE: Alexander Galimov, the player who survived the crash, has died in hospital according to Russia 24 TV. These reports were premature, but he's in 'beyond critical condition' with burns over 90% of his body. He is26 years old, and a one time member of Russia's U20 WJC team (2005, silver medallist).
There are now conflicting reports on the passenger list and Galimov's condition. I will refrain from posting further as a result.