Russian investigators probe KHL jet crash
Investigators in Russia were searching Thursday for the flight recorders from a jet that crashed a day earlier, killing most of the members of the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team.
The recorders are believed to be in jet's tail section, which is partly submerged in a river.
The crash killed 43 people, including 36 players, coaches and staff from the Lokomotiv club. The team's Canadian coach, Brad McCrimmon, and former Vancouver Canuck star Pavol Demitra were among the dead.
Two people, including hockey player Alexander Galimov and a crew member, survived the crash. News agencies in Russia said the two are in very serious condition and have been transferred to Moscow for treatment.
The jet went down shortly after takeoff from an airport in Tunoshna, near the city of Yaroslavl, about 240 kilometres northeast of Moscow. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus, for the first game of its season.
The aircraft reportedly struggled to gain altitude and hit a signal tower before it crashed.
"The Yak-42 aircraft involved in the crash was due to be decommissioned next year," Karen Percy reported from Moscow. "An investigation is underway into the remaining Yak-42s still flying, but there's also speculation today that poor quality fuel was used."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday visited the site of the crash, where he placed flowers and paused to mourn the dead. He also met with rescue workers and officials.
The Russian leader also called for changes in the Russian aviation industry.
"The number of air companies should be radically reduced and it's necessary to do this within the shortest time," Medvedev said in comments broadcast on Russian television.
Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov said the crashed plane was constructed in 1993 and had one of its three engines replaced a month ago.
Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reported Okulov as saying a halt on flights by the 57 Yak-42s still in service is being considered.
At the hockey's team home arena in Yaroslavl, fans left flowers, lit candles, or wrote notes in memory of the dead.
"The loss of the team is the loss of the symbol of the city," said Mikhail Sergeichev, a 22-year-old student. "We had a history, we had a legend, and we hope to God that of that legend one person will survive."
Plans to rebuild team
Also Thursday, the KHL said the start of its season will be postponed until Sept. 12. The league said in a statement the decision was made by KHL president Alexander Medvedev and its chairman of the board of directors, Vyacheslav Fetisov. A cup match Wednesday between Salavat Yulaev and Atlant in the central Russian city of Ufa was called off midway after news of the crash was announced.
The league's president also announced plans to reform Lokomotiv. He said each team in the league should give up to three players to a new Lokomotiv team. He says that will free up between 40 and 45 players from which Lokomotiv can select.
The KHL is a league of teams in several ex-Soviet nations that has attempted to rival the NHL in recent years in terms of salary and attracting high-calibre talent to Russia.
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With files from The Associated Press