Thousands Mourn Victims of Russian Hockey Plane Crash

Posted September 10th, 2011 at 1:06 pm (UTC-5)
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An estimated 100,000 people gathered Saturday in Russia's western city of Yaroslavl to honor the victims of a plane crash that devastated a local ice hockey team.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined the mourners for a ceremony at a hockey arena in Yaroslavl. They laid flowers near coffins containing the remains of players and staff from Russia's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team.

Wednesday's accident took the lives of 43 of the 45 people on board the plane. Most of those killed were members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, many of them international hockey stars. Coaches and club officials also perished.

The two survivors, player Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov, are hospitalized in critical condition.

Russian aviation experts are investigating the crash. They say the plane's engines were operating until the moment of the crash, and that the stabilizer and flaps were in their proper positions.

The Yak-42 passenger jet crashed following takeoff from Yaroslavl, about 240 kilometers northeast of Moscow. The hockey team was headed to Minsk, Belarus for its opening game of the season.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a thorough probe into the cause of the crash, which is the latest in a series of fatal plane disasters in the country.

Last month, 11 people died when an Antonov-12 cargo plane crashed in Russia's far northeastern region of Siberia. In June, a Soviet-built Tupolev passenger plane crashed in northwest Russia, killing 45 people.