TUNOSHNA, Russia (AP) — A Russian jet carrying a top ice hockey team crashed into a river bank while taking off Wednesday, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured, officials said. It was one of the worst crashes ever involving a sports team.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed in sunny weather immediately after leaving an airport near the western city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.
It said the plane was carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season of the Kontinental Hockey League. It was carrying 45 people, including 37 passengers and eight crew, and two people survived, officials said.
It wasn’t immediately clear which players were on board the Yak-42. Officials said player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crewmember.
Swarms of police and rescue crews rushed to Tunoshna, a picturesque village with a blue-domed church on the banks of the Volga River. One of the plane’s engines could be seen poking out of the river and a flotilla of boats combed the water for bodies.
One resident, Irina Pryakhova, saw the plane going down, hearing a loud bang and then seeing a plume of smoke.
“It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong,” she said. “I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats with seatbelts on.”
President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year. The short- and medium-range Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 and about 100 are still working for Russian carriers.