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Ex-NHL players among 43 killed in Russian plane crash

September 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A private jet carrying a Russian professional hockey team crashed minutes after takeoff from an airport northeast of Moscow on Wednesday.

Authorities said 43 people were killed in one of the worst plane crashes ever involving a sports team. Two others were critically injured. Officials said Russian player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crew member.

The players from the Lokomotiv ice hockey team were on their way to Minsk for a game when the Yak-42 crashed into the shores of the Volga River, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry. The plane apparently struggled to gain altitude and then hit a signal tower.

Of the 45 people on board, 36 were players, coaches and team officials; eight were crew.

Russian television showed footage of the flaming wreck in the river as divers worked to recover bodies.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Former Los Angeles Kings forward Pavol Demitra, 36, was among the dead, as was Kings prospect Jam Marek.

"The Los Angeles Kings organization is deeply saddened with the tragic news of this morning's plane crash in Russia that was carrying the members of the KHL's Lokomotiv organization, including former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, former Kings prospect Jan Marek and many other members of the NHL family," the Kings said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of those affected by this terrible occurrence," the statement said.

Former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ruslan Salei, 36, also died in the crash. Salei was drafted by the Ducks in 1996 and played there for nine seasons. He signed on with the Lokomotiv team as a free agent in July.

Several hundred mourning fans wearing jerseys and scarves gathered in the evening at the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv stadium to pay their respects.

"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from 10 nations," said Rene Fasel, president of the international Ice Hockey Federation. "This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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