Ramstein Airshow Disaster

The German band Rammstein is named after the disaster and their self-titled song is a reference to the event.

The Ramstein airshow disaster was one of the world's deadliest airshow disasters. It took place in front of an audience of about 300,000 people on August 28, 1988, in Ramstein, state of Rheinland-Pfalz, West Germany, near the city of Kaiserslautern at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base airshow Flugtag '88. Sixty-seven spectators and three pilots died, and 346 spectators sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire.

Ten Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets from the Italian Air Force display team, Frecce Tricolori, were performing their 'pierced heart' (Italian: Cardioide, German: Durchstochenes Herz) formation. In this formation, two groups of aircraft create a heart shape in front of the audience along the runway. In the completion of the lower tip of the heart, the two groups of planes pass each other parallel to the runway. The heart is then pierced, in the direction towards the audience, by a lone aircraft.

The crash:

The mid-air collision took place as the two heart-forming groups passed each other and the heart-piercing aircraft hit them. The piercing aircraft crashed onto the runway and the fuselage and resulting fireball of aviation fuel tumbled into the spectator area, hitting the crowd and coming to rest against a refrigerated trailer being used to dispense ice cream to the various vendor booths in the area. At the same time, one of the damaged aircraft from the heart-forming group crashed into the emergency medical evacuation UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, injuring the pilot, Captain Kim Strader. Captain Strader died weeks later, on September 17, 1988 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, from burns he suffered in the accident.

The pilot of the aircraft that hit the helicopter had ejected, but was killed as he hit the runway before his parachute opened. The third aircraft disintegrated in the collision and parts of it were spread along the runway. After the crash, the remaining aircraft regrouped and landed at Sembach Air Base.

Emergency response:

Of the 31 people who died at the scene, 28 had been hit by shrapnel in the form of airplane parts, concertina wire, and debris from items on the ground. Sixteen of the fatalities occurred in the days and weeks after the disaster due to severe burns, the last being the burned and injured pilot from the helicopter.

In total about 500 people had to seek hospital treatment following the event.

The disaster revealed serious short comings in the handling of large-scale medical emergencies by German civil and American military authorities and their cooperation. American military did not allow German ambulances to enter the military base and let them help immediately. The rescue work was criticized for lacking efficiency and coordination. The rescue coordination center in Kaiserslautern was unaware of the disaster's scale as much as an hour after its occurrence, although several German Medevac helicopters and ambulances had already arrived on site and left with patients. American helicopters and ambulances provided the quickest and largest capacities for evacuating burn victims, but could not provide sufficient capacities for treating them or had difficulties to even find them. More than two hours after the disaster, German paramedics arrived at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and found large numbers of severely burned but completely unattended patients. A bus transporting unattended patients arrived at a Ludwigshafen hospital with a specialized burn-victim unit, 80 km from the accident site, nearly three hours after the disaster. The bus driver did not speak German and was unfamiliar with the area. More confusion was added by American military using different standards for intravenous catheters than German paramedics before a single standard was codified in 1995.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramstein_airshow_disaster