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MINSK, September 8 (Itar-Tass) – President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has called the tragic death of hockey players, coaches and assistant staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team “an irreparable loss for world ice hockey”.
“Wednesday night, the world was shocked by the stunning news that an air accident near Yaroslavl /a Russian city on the Volga River some 260 km northeast off Moscow – Itar-Tass/ took away the lives of three and a half dozen people, including 36 members of the Lokomotiv hockey team,” Lukashenko said at a requiem party in memory of the hockey players.
One of the most saddening aspects of the tragedy is that the jet carrying the Lokomotiv team collapsed after taking off on a flight to Minsk, he said.
“All of them are like brothers to us,” Lukashenko said adding that two Belarussian hockey stars, Sergei Ostapchuk and the legendary captain of the Belarussian national team, Ruslan Solei were playing for the Yaroslavl club. They died together with the rest of the team.
He recalled that the players of the Minsk Dinamo club and thousands of ice hockey fans had been looking forward impatiently to the match, which Lokomotiv and Dinamo were due to play Thursday night.
“They were eager to see a nice, decent and noble game,” Lukashenko said. “Alas, fate took its own course.”
He thanked everyone who had come to the requiem party to bid final farewell to the prematurely departed hockey players.
“We firmly believe in the revival of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl but this legendary composition of the team will always remain in our hearts at the peak of their glory,” Lukashenko said.
Wednesday, September 7, a Yakovlev-42 jet crashed near the Yaroslavl seconds after takeoff from the local airport. It had been chartered to take the Lokomotiv team to Minsk for a match versus Dinamo Minsk as part of the Kontinental Hockey League /KHL/ championship.
The accident took away the lives of 43 people, leaving only two survivors. It wiped out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team practically in full force.
Of the 45 people aboard, eleven were citizens of foreign countries.
The two survivors are the team’s forward Alexander Galimov and the flight engineer of the jet’s crew, Alexander Sizov. Doctors at Moscow’s Alexander Vishnevsky Surgery Institute said Thursday night Galimov’s condition had stabilized and they could struggle for his life now.