Breaking News: Plane Crash in Russia, Pro Hockey Players Dead
In the latest in a string of deadly accidents involving Soviet-designed planes, a Yak-42 plane carrying 37 passengers and 8 crew collided with a communications mast seconds after taking off from an airport near the town of Yaroslavl and then crashed to the ground in a ball of flames.
The Russian plane had been chartered by a local ice hockey team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, to take them to their first match of the season in neighbouring Belarus which was due to take place on Thursday. It appears that all but one of the players was killed, while the rest of the team, including several foreign players, all died.
One of the plane’s eight crew members was also reported to have survived. By coincidence, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due to attend a political forum in nearby Yaroslavl on Thursday so top Kremlin officials were already in the area which is around 150 miles northeast of Moscow.
Accident investigators said they were looking into all scenarios but that it was not immediately clear whether the crash was the result of pilot error or technical failure. Although Russia has used some of its windfall oil revenues to buy new Western planes in recent years, hundreds of ageing Soviet-era planes remain in service despite expert warnings that they are perilously close to the end of their recommended service life. Two accidents involving Soviet-era jets this summer that killed a total 54 people prompted Mr Medvedev to call for such planes to be taken out of service as early as next year but it is unclear whether that will in fact happen. Over the years, the Yak-42 plane involved in Wednesday’s crash has reportedly been involved in a total of nine incidents that have claimed the lives of a combined 570 people including Wednesday’s fatalities. The Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 although the plane involved in Wednesday’s crash had only been flying since 1993.