09/08/2011, 00.00
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Medvedev visits site of Yaroslav plane crash

by Nina Achmatova
The accident wiped out the Lokomotiv ice hockey team. Blame for the Yak-42 disaster is pinned on human error or technical malfunction. Bookmakers now offer goods odds on Russia’s frequent accidents.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the site near Yaroslav, on the now infamous Volga River, where an entire hockey team was wiped out after their plane crashed. The president’s presence is an indication of the significance of the tragedy that killed 43 of 45 people on board. Except for one player, everyone from the Lokomotiv Yaroslav was killed. The other survivor was a member of the crew of the plane. The team was on its way to Minsk to play the opening game of the season. The league, which is very popular across the former Soviet Union, has been suspended until next Monday. Three days of mourning have been proclaimed in the region.

The Yak-42 had just taken off from Yaroslav, when it rolled on its side and crashed. It is the fourth air accident in Russia in two months. The other three disasters involved two Antonovs and one Tupolev. On 10 July, the river cruise ship ‘Bulgaria’ sank in the Volga because of poor maintenance and too many passengers, killing more than a hundred people, including many children.

The cause of the crash remains unknown. One of the two black boxes was recovered this morning and handed over to investigators. Speaking to Ria Novosti, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Valerya Okulova said there were three possible causes: technical malfunction, human error or substandard maintenance.

However, the plane had undergone an inspection three weeks ago, and early reports suggest that engine failure might be the cause, this according to the Interfax news agency. The inexperience of the pilot, who appears to have taken off despite problems, might have played a factor as well.

The Yak-42, a 120-seater operated by a local airline company, was first flown in 1993, and so is much newer than many aircrafts operated by companies in former Soviet republics, many of which go back to the 1980s and are accident-prone, the latest one in June.

In response to the situation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dimitri Medvedev have said they want to see Russia’s civilian air fleet renewed.

Ms Okulova said that Rosaviatsia, Russia’s Federal Aviation Agency, is considering grounding all Yak-42.

Despite efforts by the Russian government to boost the country’s transport sector, Russians are used to disasters, which often end in whitewashed inquiries.

What is more, just the day before the accident, newsru.ru reported that some bookmakers were betting on what accident (airplane, ship, rocket, etc.) would happen on 7 September in Russia.
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