Russia ice hockey plane crash blamed on 'pilot error'

Plane crash scene in Volga river near Yaroslavl The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team was wiped out by the crash

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A Russian plane crash that killed 44 people, including an entire ice hockey team, was caused by pilot error, say investigators.

The Yak-42 plane came down on 7 September near the city of Yaroslavl.

The investigators say the pilot activated the brakes by accident during take-off and then tried to lift the jet too quickly.

The crash caused widespread shock in Russia where ice hockey is hugely popular.

Thirty-six players and members of staff from the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team were killed immediately, along with several crew members.

One player survived but died in hospital five days later of severe burns.

A crowd of 100,000 people including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gathered at the team's home stadium to pay their respects.

Rules ignored

Lead investigator Alexei Morozov said the company that operated the plane, Yak-Servis, had ignored safety rules and had failed to provide adequate training to the crew.

If the pilots had realised what had gone wrong after the brakes had been applied, they would still have had time to abort the take-off, he said.

He also noted that the co-pilot had taken medicine prohibited for pilots, which could have contributed to the disaster.

Following the crash, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for improvements in aviation safety.

More than 120 people have been killed in civilian air crashes in Russia so far this year.

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