Incident Reports

Date: November 6, 1931
Survivors: none
Fatalities: mot. kapr. Vilhelms Graudups
                  serz Otto Ostvalds
                  kapt Martins Vitolins
                  vltn Nikolajs Dekeris
                  vltn Karlis Lepels
                  Nina Lepele (civilian passenger)
Aircraft Involved: Svenska S.IIa (He 4) #s 19, 20
Location: Near Liepaja
Details:
  • Five aviators died in the collision (kapt.Martins Vitolins, vltn. Karlis Lepels, Dekeris, serz. Oto Ostvalds and mot. Vilis Graudups) as well as one civilian, the wife of Lepels, who was a passenger in one of the aircraft.
  • The board of enquiry came to the following conclusions:
    • both aircraft were in complete working order
    • the weather conditions were favourable
    • none of the aviators had been using alchohol.
    • They were of the opinion that the accident was a result of pilot error, the pilot being Nikolajs Dekeris, flying aircraft No.20. The two aircraft were engaged in mock combat and Dekeris, attacking from the side, failed to break off the attack until it was too late. His aircraft struck the other amidships, both aircraft broke apart and they, with their occupants, fell to the ground near Ziemelu cemetary.
  • In 1931, parachutes were not yet in use in Latvian air units.
  • pilot Lepels, flying He-4 #19, tried to ease his damaged aircraft over water, but it was damaged too severely for any genuine control. Eyewitnesses report that the two passengers leapt from the plane when it neared the ground, but the fall proved fatal. The plane fell to the ground, about a half kilometre from the sea, upside down with the pontoons pointing upwards.
  • This was the worst air disaster in Latvia during the interwar period. As a result of this disaster, the Commander of the reconaissance squadron (kapt. Evalds Karklins) was relieved of his duties and he was replaced by kapt. Zarins. Karklins resigned from the military in Decmber 1935, but returned when war appeared imminent in 1939.



The Crash Site

Wreckage of #19 Wreckage Wreckage Wreckage of #19



The Funerals

Funeral Funeral Funeral Funeral

 

Funeral Funeral



Sources

- Bruvelis, Edvins Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture
- Gerbers, Alfreds, Daugavas Vanagu Menesraksts 1992, no. 2 pg. 26-28
- Jaunakas Zinas November 7, 1931, pg.11
- Prieditis, Erichs Eriks Latvijas Kara Flote
- Funeral images courtesy of H.Robeznieks

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