Sabena OO-AUB Ostend crash
|Date||16 November 1937|
|Fatalities||12 (including newborn child)|
|Aircraft type||Junkers Ju 52/3m|
Sabena OO-AUB was a Junkers Ju 52 airliner owned by Belgian airline Sabena, operating as a scheduled international passenger flight from Cologne, Germany, to London, England, which crashed near Ostend, Belgium on 16 November 1937. The flight was scheduled to stop at Brussels, but bad weather forced the pilot to continue to Ostend. However, conditions were little better at Ostend, and the aircraft hit a factory chimney while circling to land at Stene Airport.
Crew and passengers
The plane was piloted by Tony Lambotte, one of the most senior in Sabena service, with over six hundred thousand flying miles to his credit. In his crew were an engineer, a wireless operator and a mechanic. Among those on board were the Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus of Hesse, known as Don to his family, his wife, former Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark (b. 1911, elder sister of Prince Philip, later Duke of Edinburgh) who was heavily pregnant at the time, their sons Ludwig (b. 1931) and Alexander (b. 1933), the Grand Duke's widowed mother, former Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, Joachim Riedesel Freiherr (Baron) zu Eisenbach, and Lina Hahn, the children's nurse. The group were travelling to London for the wedding of the Hereditary Grand Duke's younger brother Louis with Margaret Geddes (1913–1997), daughter of Sir Auckland Geddes. Baron Riedesel was to be Louis' best man.
As Lambotte brought the plane in over Stene to land, the tip of a wing touched the chimney's top. The wing and an engine were ripped away and, in a mass of flames, the Junkers crashed into the works below. All 11 passengers and crew lost their lives in the accident. The remains of Grand Duchess Cecilie's newborn child were found among the wreckage; the inquiry indicated that the birth was the reason the pilot was attempting to land despite the poor weather conditions. The plane crash occurred on the 59th anniversary of the death of Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, Don's aunt.
Louis' wedding had been scheduled for the 20th, but, following discussions with his future father-in-law Sir Auckland Geddes, was brought forward to the following day (17 November), as a small and quiet ceremony with the guests dressed in mourning.
Immediately afterward, he set off with his new wife Margaret to Belgium to visit the crash site. The funeral of Georg Donatus and his family took place in Darmstadt, Hesse, a few days later. Attending were Prince Philip, Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Prince Philipp of Hesse, Berthold, Margrave of Baden, Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia and Lord Louis Mountbatten, among others. A photograph of the funeral procession, showing Prince Louis as chief mourner, shows crowds saluting the mourners with the Hitler salute. World War II began less than two years later.
The Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess' fourteen-month-old daughter, Johanna, was the only one of the family who was not on board the aircraft. She was adopted by her uncle Louis in early 1938. Johanna died of meningitis in 1939.
With the death of the childless Prince Louis in 1968, the male line of the Hesse and by Rhine became extinct.
- "Birth of Royal Infant seen as Cause of Crash". the Evening Independent. 23 November 1937. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- Curse of Hesse – Time Magazine
- "A Twelfth Victim.". Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA : 1916 – 1938) (Kalgoorlie, WA: National Library of Australia). 23 November 1937. p. 19. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- Duff, David. Hessian Tapestry. David & Charles PLC, 1979.
- Deglas, Christian (2005). Rampen in België : Heizeldrama, gasexplosie in Gellingen, Switelbrand, Herald of Free Enterprise, brand in de Innovation, mijnramp in Marcinelle ... en alle andere drama's die ons land schokten (in Dutch). Tielt: Lannoo. pp. 38–40. ISBN 90-209-6216-7. Retrieved 26 January 2011.