Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News: 2011 Yak-Service Yakovlev Yak-42 crash

At least 44 people were killed when a Russian jet carrying hockey players to their first match of the season crashed on takeoff in the latest blow to the country’s tainted air safety record.
The Yak-42 passenger jet took off on Wednesday from Yaroslavl airport about 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow just as a two-day political forum expected to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev got under way.
German news agency DPA quoted aviation officials as saying the plane struck a radio antenna beyond the runway.
A source told Interfax that the plane suddenly started listing to the left and crashed about 500 metres away from the Tunoshna airport.
‘‘According to the latest data, there were 45 people on board - 37 passengers and eight crew.
Forty-four people died in the crash and one person survived,’’ a police official told the RIA Novosti news agency.
DPA says the survivor was a member of the crew.
The local emergencies ministry said the jet was taking members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team to the Belarus capital Minsk for their first match of the 2011-12 season.
The team is trained by a Canadian national and has several foreign players on the roster posted on its website.
Two accidents involving Tu-134 and An-24 jets this northern summer that killed a total of 54 people prompted Medvedev to call for most of the aircraft to be retired by January 1 and the rest taken out in subsequent months.
The accidents have tarnished Medvedev’s vision of a modern Russia that he promotes in messages ahead of presidential elections next year that can be also contested by Vladimir Putin - his more nationalist mentor and prime minister.
But that move was followed by a series of smaller air accidents as well as a Volga River boat disaster that killed 122 people during a pleasure cruise.
Medvedev was due to speak at the forum on Thursday and sent his top political adviser Vladislav Surkov to the scene of the disaster.A Kremlin spokeswoman said Medvedev himself would arrive in Yaroslavl later on Wednesday.
Conference participants also held a minute of silence while the country’s hockey season kicked off with a sombre message from the deputy head of Gazprom, the company that sponsors Russia’s Continental Hockey League (KHL).
‘‘I propose that we honour the memory of the dead with a minute of silence,’’ Gazprom number two Alexander Medvedev said at the season opening in the Ural Mountains city of Ufa.
The match was later abandoned to applause from the crowd.
Three-time Russian champion Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was founded in 1959 and last won the country’s title in 2002.
‘‘I am at the airport right now,’’ the team’s general manager Yury Lukin told the R-Sport news agency.‘‘I do not know what they are saying on the news, but things here are very serious,’’ he said.