A Canadian hockey coach is among the 43 people killed when a passenger plane carrying a Russian hockey team crashed shortly after takeoff in Russia Wednesday.
Saskatchewan native and former NHLer Brad McCrimmon died when the Yak-42 aircraft, with the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team on board, struggled to gain altitude near the airport at Tunoshna outside Yaroslavl, 250 km north of Moscow. The plane, bound for Belarus, collided into an airport antenna before bursting into flames on a riverbank at about 4 p.m., according to Russian media.
The Russian emergency situations ministry said 37 passengers and eight crew members were on board. Lokomotiv forward Alexander Galimov and flight attendant Alexander Sizov survived. Both were in critical condition Wednesday. Galimov reportedly has burns covering 90% of his body.
The cause of the crash had not been determined as of Wednesday afternoon, but Russian media report the aircraft operator has been under fire for safety standards issues.
The weather was clear and sunny at the time of take off.
McCrimmon, 52, was the Russian team's new coach.
The only other Canadian on the team, ex-NHLer Riley Armstrong, was not on board.†
He confirmed Wednesday morning via Twitter that he wasn't on the flight because he has plans to attend training camp in St. John's, N.L.
"I'm safe but thanks for the kind words but pray and think of the players and their families on that flight," he tweeted from Saskatoon.
Russian NHL player Alex Ovechkin tweeted: "I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P."
McCrimmon, of Dodsland, Sask., played for six NHL teams: Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix. He was also an assistant coach for the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Detroit Red Wings.
Pavol Demitra, who played for the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks, also died in the crash.
Matt Keator, Demitra's Boston-based agent, said he is in shock.
"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport," International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said in a statement. "This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations."
Other former NHL players killed include Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei and Josef Vasicek.
"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 (Wednesday's) tragedy," the KHL said in a statement.
-- With files from Reuters, Bruce Garrioch