Kurkse tragedy (Estonian: Kurkse tragöödia) occurred on 11 September 1997, when 14 Estonian soldiers of the Baltic Battalion drowned in the Kurkse Strait during a dangerous training maneuver.[1] The Kurkse tragedy is the deadliest accident in the Estonian Defence Forces since the country regained independence in 1991.[2]

Aerial view of the Kurkse Strait (left of the center of the image) and the Pakri Islands
Memorial for Kurkse tragedy

Accident edit

As the last part of an exercise which had lasted several days, a team of 22 soldiers from the reconnaissance unit of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion attempted to wade about 3 km (2 mi) from the Pakri Islands through the shallow Kurkse Strait to the Estonian mainland.[3] Although in the beginning of the exercise the conditions seemed satisfactory, later during the crossing, when the unit came out of the lee of the island, high winds and waves appeared and several men started to suffer from hypothermia in the cool (14°C) water.[4][failed verification] Also, it was expected that most of the strait could be waded through and it would be needed to swim for only several hundred meters, but instead the men had to start swimming relatively early and couldn't ever touch seabed before they were rescued.[5] The eight surviving soldiers were rescued by the master of the nearby Kurkse harbour.

The commander of the unit, Jaanus Karm, was later found guilty of negligence for leading his troops into such dangerous circumstances. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, but was pardoned by the president Lennart Meri.[1]

In September 1998, a memorial stone was erected in the port of Kurkse in memory of those who died in the accident. In 2008, the Kurkse tragedy was the subject of the Estonian documentary film Surmaretk.[6]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Huang, Mel (6 November 1999). "News Review for Estonia". Central Europe Review. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2020. Alt URL
  2. ^ "Kaitseväes 80 hukkunut". Eesti Ekspress. 2003-09-03. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  3. ^ Rutland, Peter (1998). The challenge of integration. M. E. Sharpe. p. 142. ISBN 9780765603593.
  4. ^ "KURKSE 10: Surmapäeval oli mere kohal ilus sinine taevas..." Eesti Ekspress. 2007-09-11. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  5. ^ Ernits, Peeter (2007-09-06). "See oli nagu halb unenägu". Maaleht. Archived from the original on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  6. ^ Lattu, Kirsi (2008-09-08). "Kurkse tragöödiast esilinastub dokumentaalfilm "Surmaretk"". ERR (in Estonian). Retrieved 2020-05-28.