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Only player to survive Russian plane crash dies

26-year-old Alexander Galimov died of the severe burns that covered about 90% of his body following Wednesday’s crash.

A relative of one of the victims at Saturday's service.
A relative of one of the victims at Saturday's service.
Image: AP Images

THE ONLY MEMBER of a top Russian hockey team to survive a plane crash that killed 44 people died of his injuries in a Moscow hospital today.

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

The crash on 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,” governor Sergei Vakhrukov said.

He 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.

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