The September plane crash that killed 44 people in Russia -- including a professional hockey team -- was caused by pilot error, investigators said Wednesday.
The Interstate Aviation Committee said the Sept. 7 crash of the Yak-42 plane carrying KHL team Lokomotiv occurred because one of the plane's pilots accidentally stepped on the brake pedals during takeoff, Radio Free Europe reports.
Aleksei Morozov, the head of the committee, said it wasn't clear whether the error was the fault of the flight's commander or the co-pilot, who did not have much experience with the Yak-42, the New York Times reported.
The plane, bound for Belarus, struggled to gain altitude near the airport at Tunoshna outside Yaroslavl, 250 km north of Moscow, before hitting an airport antenna and bursting into flames.
"Test pilots established in a flight experiment that an erroneous pushing of the brake pedals during takeoff is possible only if the pilot's feet are placed by mistake on the braking floor," the Times quoted Morozov saying in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency. "Even a slight pressure on the pedals may have been overlooked by the pilot."
The commission also found flaws with the flight crew's training, the Times reported.
The plane was carrying 37 passengers and eight crew members. Two people, Lokomotiv forward Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov, initially survived, but Galimov, who emerged from the wreckage with burns to about 90% of his body, died less than a week later.
Saskatchewan native and former NHLer Brad McCrimmon, the Russian team's new coach, was among those killed in the crash. Former Senators and Canucks forward Pavol Demitra was among a raft of former NHLers aboard the plane who also perished with their KHL team.
The Sept. 7 crash was the most dramatic of a series of plane crashes in Russia this year that have called into question airline safety in the country. A crash on June 20 in the northern city of Petrozavodsk killed 47 people, and was caused in part by the plane's "lightly" drunken navigator.
- with files from Reuters