Latvian paratroopers drown in Riga

  • 2006-05-16
  • By TBT staff
Two members of the Latvian National Armed Forces drowned in the Daugava River in Riga on May 15, after a paratroop-training exercise went wrong.

The Latvian National Fire and Rescue Service told BNS that witness had called at 1:17 p.m. saying five people with parachutes had jumped out of a plane and fallen into the water. In fact, one of the paratroopers, part of a group training at the Spilve airport on the Daugava River's left bank, had safely landed on the other side of the river. The other four members were taken by a sudden gust of wind and fell into the water.
Two of the paratroopers were rescued, but the bodies of the third were discovered later in the day and the fourth at 7 p.m. that evening.

Defense Minister Atis Slakteris has ordered Gaidis Andrejs Zeibots, a military official, to investigate the accident and report back in two weeks, according to the ministry. The minister sent his condolences to the families of the two men.

In an interview with Latvian commercial LNT television on May 16, the ministry's state secretary Edgars Rinkevics said he could not reveal how much the families would be compensated, but according to Latvian law they should be due the equivalent of 120 monthly salaries, about 50,000 lats (71,140 euros).

Rinkevics said that while both of the victims had six and eight years experience as soldiers, respectively, they were not fully-trained paratroopers.