A Russian jet crashed today while transporting the KHL team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv to the season opener in Minsk. The crash killed 43 people, including several former NHL players.
Pavol Demitra, Brad McCrimmon, Karel Rachunek, Josef Vasicek, Jan Marek, Daniel Tjarnqvist, and Alexander Vasyunov all perished in the crash. A spokesman for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv said that the entire roster was on board the plane.
The plane crashed just after takeoff. According to the Vancouver Sun, the plane wasn’t able to climb to a proper altitude after takeoff and collided with a navigation beacon 1.2 miles from the airport near the Volga River.
There were 45 people on board the plane, 37 passengers and 8 crew members, and only two people survived. Yaroslavl player Alexander Galimov and one of the stewards, Alexander Sizov, survived the crash. Galimov was in critical condition with burns over 80% of his body. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said:
“Despite the substantial air travel of professional hockey teams, our sport has been spared from tragic traffic accidents. But only until now. This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations.”
The KHL season is scheduled to start tomorrow but the league has not decided how the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv tragedy will impact the schedule. Sports Illustrated reports that the games will be played out as normal but with no music or entertainment during stoppages.
The league said in a statement:
“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 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.”
Should the KHL continue with their season? Will the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv tragedy change the way professional athletes travel?