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Only player to survive Russian plane crash dies

By Lynn Berry

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 12 2011 5:05 a.m. MDT

Relatives of Belarusian ice hockey player Ruslan Salei, killed in Wednesday's plane crash near Yaroslavl, mourn during a funeral ceremony in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. The chartered Yak-42 jet crashed Wednesday into the banks of the Volga River moments after takeoff from an airport near Yaroslavl. The crash killed 43 people, including 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team, many of whom were European national team and former NHL players. It was one of the worst aviation disasters ever in sports, shocking Russia and the world of hockey. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus to play its opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season.

Dmitry Brushko, Associated Press

MOSCOW — The only member of a top Russian hockey team to survive a plane crash that killed 44 people died Monday of his injuries in a Moscow hospital.

The Vishnevsky hospital said 26-year-old Alexander Galimov died of the severe burns that covered about 90 percent of his body, despite the best efforts of doctors in its burn unit, considered one of the best in Russia.

The crash Wednesday of a chartered Yak-42 jet outside the western city of Yaroslavl took the lives of 37 players, coaches and staff of the local Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey club. The only other person to survive, flight crew member Alexander Sizov, remained in intensive care at Moscow's Sklifosovsky hospital.

Unlike many other members of Lokomotiv who were European Union citizens and once played in the NHL, Galimov was a native of Yaroslavl and a product of its youth program.

His death is certain to be deeply mourned in the city, where the team's consistently strong performance was a source of great pride.

At rallies following the crash, fans chanted "Galimov, live for the whole team!" and other slogans dedicated to him.

"All of Yaroslavl, all of the country, all of the world followed the doctors' words, believing, hoping, praying that he would defeat death and remain with us," Yaroslavl Gov. Sergei Vakhrukov said.

The governor described Galimov, a forward, as a fan favorite who remained true to his home club for many years.

"He carried the team spirit of Lokomotiv and through his indomitable character often reversed the course of the most difficult games," Vakhrukov said.

A memorial ceremony Saturday in the Lokomotiv ice arena drew an estimated 100,000 people, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The crash, one of the worst ever aviation disasters in sports, shocked all of Russia and the international hockey community.

The team was heading to Minsk, Belarus, to play its opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season when the plane crashed into the Volga River bank shortly after takeoff and burst into flames.

Russian aviation experts say they have come to no conclusions yet about the cause of the crash. The plane appeared to have trouble gaining altitude, but investigators said its flight data recorders showed that all three engines were operating up until the moment the plane crashed.

Aviation authorities have also launched safety checks on all the approximately 60 Yak-42 jets still in service in Russia, and grounded at least four of them.

Experts blame Russia's poor aviation safety record on an aging fleet, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

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