A solemn day of remembrance today in Dubrovnik.
On April the 3rd 1996, a United States Air Force Boeing CT-43A on an official trade mission tragically crashed into the side of the Sveti Ivan mountain in Konavle on its approach to Dubrovnik during an attempt at an instrument approach into Dubrovnik Airport (Cilipi). The aircraft was carrying 34 people, among them were the United States Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, and the New York Times Frankfurt bureau chief, Nathaniel Nash. Air Force Technical Sergeant, Shelly Kelly, somehow managed to survive the devastating impact, but passed away before adequate medical attention could be given. Every one of the 34 remaining passengers, including two Croatian nationals, lost their lives at the scene of the dismal crash.
The aircraft, which was in fact a Boeing 737-200, built originally as a navigational trainer before being converted into its final CT-43A executive transport aircraft form, was operated by the 86th Airlift Wing and based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Due to the nature of its construction, and perhaps yet more disturbingly, the aircraft was not equipped with a cockpit recorder or a flight data recorder, unlike the civilian version of the 737.
The investigation board of the US Air Force came to several possible factors which could have led the aircraft to meet its grizzly end, among the conclusions were a ”failure of command, aircrew error and an improperly designed instrument approach procedure”.
Three days following the horrific accident, the former head of navigation for Dubrovnik Airport, Niko Jerkuic, was discovered dead by a single bullet wound to his chest. The conclusion of suicide was quickly drawn by officers investigating the case.
The Ronald Brown memorial house in Dubrovnik’s Old City features the portraits of the victims of the disaster and the area of the site of the horrendous crash is marked by a large cross on Strazisce peak which can be reached via the ”Ronald Brown Path”.
Today, 21 years later, a solemn delegation commemoration was held at the memorial home of Ronald Brown, and the laying of wreaths and flowers, as well as the lighting of candles will take place on the mountain of Sveti Ivan, the site of the crash.