MOSCOW, Ohio – The Russian city of Yaroslavl paid its respects today to the 44 people who were killed in a plane crash that wiped out a hockey team a year ago today.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was en route to its first game of the KHL season in Belarus when its jet crashed on take-off on Sept. 7, 2011.
The 44 victims included Canadian head coach Brad McCrimmon and a host of former NHL stars, including Pavol Demitra, and future prospects.
A memorial service was held today at a city cathedral before friends and relatives of the victims laid flowers at a cemetery.
Hockey fans were slated to walk silently to the team’s arena, then release balloons to mark the exact time of the crash.
The Russian news agency Ria Novosti also reported on its website today that investigators have determined that the crew of the airliner had no right to fly.
Ria Novosti today quoted a spokesman for the investigative committee as saying an official with the Yak-Service airline allowed the two pilots to fly the aircraft “illegally.”
Vladimir Markin said one pilot had falsified documents and the other lacked adequate training to fly the plane.
Markin says the airline official, Vadim Timofeyev, has been charged with breaching air safety rules.
Just two months after the crash in November, 2011, Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee also pointed to insufficient crew as a cause of the tragedy.
The committee further said that one pilot of the Yak-42 plane accidentally activated the brakes, then yanked a control wheel too sharply in a desperate bid to take off.
One player survived the crash but died in hospital five days later.
Among the dead were assistant coach Alexander Karpovtsev, one of the first Russians to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers.
Demitra played for the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks and was the Slovakian national team captain.