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Figure skating coach dies in crash at Washington County Airport

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 11:50 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Inspectors look over the site of a plane crash on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at the Washington County Airport.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Inspectors look over the site of a plane crash on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at the Washington County Airport.

A former Ukranian national figure skating champion who coached at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center died Tuesday when the single-seat, experimental airplane he was flying crashed at the Washington County Airport.

Igor A. Novodran, 52, of Upper St. Clair, died at 3:35 p.m. in the emergency room of UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

“It's very tragic when someone so young with such a lovely family dies like that, so unexpectedly, doing something he enjoyed and was doing as a hobby,” said Beth Sutton, director of figure skating at the Island Sports Arena on Neville Island.

The plane went down about 2:10 p.m., falling about 200 feet, landing on its roof and sliding over a hillside, county emergency dispatchers said.

“He was out practicing touch-and-go landings — basically practicing landing, which all pilots do — by flying a pattern, landing the plane and then taking back off without stopping or slowing down,” said Scott T. Gray, airport manager, who saw Novodran flying but did not see the crash.

“We don't know exactly what happened. We heard a plane went down a hill at the side of the runway, went out and saw several mechanics from one of the shops looking over the hillside,” Gray said.

The aircraft, an Avid Bandit, sustained substantial damage, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Gray said he believed Novodran had owned the plane for about a year.

Novodran spent years training what Sutton calls “high-level skaters,” both locally and nationally.

A biography accompanying an announcement of his appearance last summer at The Pond Figure Skating Club at The Pond in Newark, Del., stated that Novodran “has more than 33 years of coaching experience ... specializing in skating skills, off-ice and on-ice jumps, spins and choreography.”

“His students have won medals at numerous national and international competitions,” the biography said.

He was not a Robert Morris employee but coached as an independent contractor at the Island Sports Center for about 10 years, Sutton said.

“Igor always had a joke to tell,” she said.

“He was the only male figure skating coach among a bunch of lovely ladies. He took his work seriously, but he always liked to have a good time, giving us a hug. He was a jovial guy with a lighter side,” Sutton said. “When he returned from the Olympics (in Sochi), he brought back a few things for us.”

“His wife, Svetlana, used to teach ballet to our skaters. His daughter, Anastasia, is a student at Robert Morris and is a member of the ice crew for the hockey team, so his whole family has been involved with us at one time or another.”

Novodran was the author of a book about a famed Russian figure skating coach, titled: “From Torino to Vancouver: Four Years with Alexey Mishin — a Man Shorter in Height but Larger Than Life.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Jason Cato contributed to this report.

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