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Members of a top ice hockey team are among at least 43 people who were killed when a private jet crashed during take-off in western Russia.

 

The world of hockey has been left stunned by the tragedy, one of the worst air crashes ever involving a sports team.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said 27 players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team were among the dead, along with two coaches and seven club officials.

They included a number of former players for American and Canadian teams in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Their Yak-42 plane came down as it left an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles north east of Moscow.

Officials said the aircraft was carrying 45 people, including eight crew.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey players were on board the plane

The team was heading to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play against Dinamo Minsk on Thursday in the opening game of the season of the Continental Hockey League (KHL).

Among the dead were Lokomotiv coach and NHL veteran Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian, as well as Pavol Demitra, who played for the St Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks.

Also killed were Czech players Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek, Swedish goalie Stefan Liv, Latvian defenseman Karlis Skrastins and defenceman Ruslan Salei of Belarus, the Emergency Ministry said.

The plane crashed near Yaroslavl, around 150 miles north east of Moscow

Not all of the players on board have been named, but officials have said Russian player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a member of the crew but both had serious injuries.

The team has a Canadian coach and Czech, German, Slovakian, Belorussian and Latvian players.

KHL president, Alexander Medvedev, interrupted the opening match of the league’s season in the city of Ufa when the news emerged.

Rescuers work at the crash site on the Volga River

“There has been a terrible tragedy,” he explained before announcing a minute’s silence and postponing the game.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately sent the nation’s transport minister to the site of the crash, 10 miles east of Yaroslavl.

The Russian aviation agency (Rosaviation) told Sky News that the aircraft was unable to gain height due to technical problems.

The plane collided with the airport transmitter, crashed to the ground and burst into flames, the agency added.

The Yak-42 plane model has been in service since 1980 and dozens are still used by airlines in Russia and elsewhere.

In recent years, Russia and the other former Soviet republics have had some of the world’s worst air traffic safety records.

Experts blame the poor safety record on the age of the aircraft, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the north western city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people.

The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.

The Russian aviation agency will investigate reports of technical problems

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service, starting next year.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, founded in 1949 as the team of the Railways Ministry, is one of Russia’s leading hockey teams.

It was runner-up in the Kontinental Hockey League – the international professional ice hockey league for Europe and Asia – in 2008 and 2009.

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