MOSCOW — A Russian passenger airliner chartered by one of the country’s best-known hockey teams crashed during take-off on Wednesday, killing most of the team, including many of its star players and N.H.L. veterans.
The crash added to a terrible run of air safety problems in Russia this year, with eight fatal crashes this year, six of them since June. The Yak-42 jet that crashed on Wednesday was carrying the Lokomotiv hockey team from its home in Yaroslavl, a city northeast of Moscow, to an away game in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in what would have been the second game of the Russian hockey season. It was airborne for only a few moments, roaring over a picturesque village of wooden homes and flower gardens near the airport before crashing.
There were 37 passengers and crew on the plane, according to a list published online by the authorities. A Russian aviation official told the Interfax news agency that two people survived — one member of the crew and one player, the star forward Aleksander Galimov, who was rushed to a local hospital.
A spokesman for Lokomotiv, Vladimir N. Malkov, said in a telephone interview. “We have no team any more, they all burned in the crash.”
Lokomotiv has three times been champion of the Kontinental Hockey League, the Russian equivalent of the National Hockey League in North America. The league has been striving to revive Russian hockey and retain players who were being lost to the N.H.L., while at the same time recruiting some North American and European stars as players and coaches.
Lokomotiv’s coach, Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian who played for 18 seasons in the N.H.L. between 1979 and 1997, died in the crash, authorities said. Mr. McCrimmon had been an assistant coach for several N.H.L. clubs including the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Detroit Red Wings.
The team’s roster includes Czech, Swedish, Ukrainian, Latvian and Belarusian hockey players. Among the best known were a starting forward, Jan Marek, a Czech hockey prodigy who was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2003 , though he never played for that team. Another was Pavol Demitra, a veteran of 16 seasons in the N.H.L. playing for the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks and the captain of the Slovak national team.
Near the site of the crash, hockey fans began to appear nearly as quickly as the firemen, soldiers and emergency workers.
One Lokomotiv fan, Dmitri Shorikov, arrived in a sports jersey to stare glumly at the flashing lights and commotion. “I still haven’t taken it in,” he said. “I just cannot believe it.”
The Yak-42 plane was one of the aging Soviet-designed needle-nosed aircraft that have been the focus of safety concerns after a series of problems and crashes, including one in June that killed most of the 52 passengers on board.
The hockey team’s plane came down about 500 yards from the Yaroslavl runway shortly after 4 p.m. The fuselage came to rest partly in a tributary to the Volga River; it was unclear whether the pilot, having encountered an emergency during take-off, had tried to ditch the plane in the water, but struck the river bank instead. The veering airplane made explosive noises during its short flight, according to witnesses.
Aleksandr Kanygin, a 65-year-old resident of the village the plane flew over, said he heard two explosions while it was airborne, and then a louder explosion when it struck the ground. “The air shook” he said.
Witnesses described the fuselage engulfed in fire, and the blackened forms of bodies nearby on the ground.
The Yak-42 is a three-engine, 120-seat jet meant for relatively short flights; it first entered service in 1975. About 90 Yak-42’s are now in service, mostly in Russia, though some are used in Cuba, Iran, Armenia, Tatarstan and Kazakhstan. Eight Yak-42’s have crashed over the years, with 570 fatalities. The Yak-42D version that crashed Wednesday was last manufactured in 1999.
The plane was operated by YAK Service, a charter airline founded in 1993 whose operations were restricted by Russian regulators for three months in 2009 because of major safety deficiencies, according to the Aviation Safety Network, which tracks air accidents and incidents.
Aviation authorities in former Soviet nations insisted for years that their civilian airliners were as safe as Western counterparts, but a series of horrifying close calls and deadly accidents have prompted them to back away from those claims. Aviation experts say the age and obsolescence of Russia’s passenger fleet makes mechanical problems and accidents more frequent and more severe. New models are being introduced, like the Superjet, which is intended to replace shorter-range planes like the Yak-42, but only three Superjets have been put into service so far.