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Tears on the ice as Russia probes air safety record

Tears on the ice as Russia probes air safety record
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“We can’t go on like this”: President Medvedev’s words after the plane crash that wiped out a top Russian ice hockey team.

As he paid his respects at the club’s stadium in Yaroslavl, where he had already come for a political conference, he said unless Russian air travel improved its safety record, the country would have to buy foreign-made aircraft.

At least 119 people have died in plane crashes in Russia in 2011, according to researchers, making the country a world leader in accident fatalities.

Rescue workers have recovered the two black box recorders as well as the bodies of all 43 people who died when the Yak-42 passenger plane crashed into the banks of the Volga River.

Weather conditions were excellent when the plane overshot the runway on take-off, and apparently hit a mast as it struggled for height before coming down and bursting into flames.

Investigators believe either faulty equipment or pilot error was to blame. The president has ordered a thorough probe into the cause and has called for fewer domestic airlines.

The two survivors are in a grave condition. Doctors say ice hockey player Alexander Galimov has 90 percent burns. The other survivor was one of the eight crew.

“Tears on the ice” was the headline in one popular Russian newspaper. In Minsk where the Lokomotiv team were due to play, a special ceremony was held instead.

President Lukashenko of Belarus, a keen hockey player himself, spoke of an ‘absurd and tragic loss’.

Lokomotiv lost several international stars but the league hopes the team can be rebuilt in time to compete this season, with each club in the championship volunteering players.