In a year where tragedy has seemed to of struck the hockey world continuously, the unfortunate streak has continued. In May, tough guy Derek Boogard of the New York Rangers was found dead at just the age of 28. Boogard died from an accidental overdose and mixture of alcohol and painkillers. Then just last month, 27 year-old Rick Rypien of the Winnipeg Jets was found dead in his Alberta home. After two such young and heartbreaking events in the hockey family, last Wednesday a Yak-42 chartered jet carrying a Russian Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team crashed about a mile from the runway, killing 44, almost everybody on board.
One player from the team, 26-year-old Alexander Galimov was the only member of the team to survive the crash, but died Monday of his injuries. Galimov had sustained severe burns to 90 percent of his body.
A couple ex-Blues players were among the players killed on board. Popular player, Pavol Demitra was one of the players confirmed dead. Demitra played with the Blues organization from 1997-2004, making up about eight seasons with the team. In 494 games Demitra totaled 204 goals, the sixth highest in team history.
After leaving St. Louis, Demitra had played with the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild before signing with the Russian Lokomotiv team in 2010. Former Blues general manager, Larry Pleau reflected on the talented player. “He grew up here. I think he really matured and grew up here. Became a better person and a better player. Married, children … you see these things happen, and he was part of your life. It’s shame when you think about the family and his wife and the kids.”
Another former Blue was also killed in the crash, Igor Korolev. Korolev had just turned 41 the day before the crash and was serving as an assistant coach for the Russian team. There were several other former NHL players in the unfortunate accident; among them were Ruslan Salei, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins and head coach Brad McCrimmon.
Investigators are now beginning to look into the possibility that the pilots of the jet may have accidentally tried departing with the parking brake on. They said that the engine has enough power to move the plane on the runway, but would not be able to get enough speed in order to takeoff. The investigators believe this may have happened due to one of the pilots feeling sick before takeoff. According to the source of this speculation, data from flight records showed that Captain Andrey Solomentsev asked his co-pilot, Igor Zhevelov to take over steering because he felt unwell. Because of the exchange in duties the two might have gotten confused because it is the commander’s duty to release the parking brake.
This is one accident in the sports world that will never be forgotten. Players, coaches and staff on this team came from all-over the world. It is not just the Russian hockey world that has been hurt in this event, but the whole hockey community.