National/World

Tens of thousands mourn Russian crash victims

Saturday, September 10, 2011

With flowers and tears, tens of thousands of people flocked to a memorial ceremony Saturday for the victims of the Russian plane crash that devastated a top ice hockey team.

Mourners including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin poured into the team's arena in the western city of Yaroslavl to lay flowers near coffins containing remains of players and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. Many fans were draped in scarves in the team's colors.

Wednesday's crash of a chartered Yak-42 jet killed 43 people and was one of the sports world's worst aviation disasters, shocking Russia and the international hockey community. Of the 45 people on board, 36 were Lokomotiv players, coaches and team officials, including many European and former NHL players.

The somber-faced Putin walked slowly across the arena, laying flowers at each of the coffins.

Emotions were especially raw in Yaroslavl, where the team's consistently strong performance in the Kontinental Hockey League was a source of great pride. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus, to play its opening game of the KLH season. Several KHL ice hockey squads traveled to Yaroslavl to attend the ceremony.

Russian crash investigators deciphering the plane's flight data recorders say all the plane's three engines were operating up until the moment it crashed into the Volga River bank shortly after takeoff. The experts have come to no conclusions yet about the cause of the crash.

Authorities checked fuel supplies at the Tunoshna airport amid suspicions that low quality fuel could be to blame, but Russia's top aviation authority said Saturday the data recorders gave no indication that bad fuel was the cause.

Two men who survived the crash - player Alexander Galimov and crew member Alexander Sizov - remained in critical condition Saturday, both in medicated comas after being transferred to Moscow for treatment. Hospital officials said Galimov had burns over 90 percent of his body.

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