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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 59899
Last updated: 6 April 2021
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Date:04-JUL-1928
Time:c. 6:30 pm
Type:Fokker F.VIIa/3m
Owner/operator:Captain Alfred L÷wenstein CB
Registration: G-EBYI
C/n / msn: 5063
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 7
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: None
Location:English Channel, off the coast of Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Private
Departure airport:Croydon Airport, Croydon, Surrey (EGCR)
Destination airport:Brussels, Belgium
Narrative:
Alfred Loewenstein (born 1877 in Brussels) was a businessman, investor, and financier who commanded a huge personal fortune and was a powerful figure in commercial circles in the decade following the Great War of 1914-1918.

On the evening of July 4th, 1928, he took off from Croydon Airport in his luxuriously appointed Fokker Tri-Motor along with six of his staff including two pilots, Captain Donald Drew and co-pilot Robert Little.

While the aircraft was cruising at 4,000 feet over the Channel, Loewenstein left his seat to use the toilet located at the rear of the plane, adjacent to the entry door and separated from the passenger compartment by another door.

When he had not reappeared after some time a staff member knocked on the toilet door and enquired if his employer was all right. When there was no response the door was opened to reveal that the compartment was empty.

The entry door to the aircraft, however, was unsecured and was slapping back and forward in the airflow.

The news of Loewenstein's death gave rise to a panic sell-off of shares in his business enterprises as suicide was immediately suspected. However, his financial position was found to be sound.

On July 20th Alfred Loewenstein's battered body was found in the sea off Calais.

It is assumed that Loewenstein stepped through the wrong door on exiting the toilet compartment and fell 4,000 feet to his death. The plane was landed on the beach at St.Pol near Dunkirk and then flown on to St. Inglevert airfield between Calais and Boulogne where the crew told the authorities that he had accidentally fallen into the English Channel.

Loewenstein's Catholic wife Madeleine had her husband buried in Brussels--in an unmarked grave. She did not attend the funeral. A hastily held inquest, oddly convened in Loewenstein's home country of Belgium instead of England, where the flight originated, or France, where the incident was first reported, ruled that Loewenstein's death was probably accidental, and although the case made international headlines, there the matter stands to this day.

Many theories have been put forward as to exactly what had happened to Loewenstein in the back of his plane; some suspected a criminal conspiracy in which his employees murdered him. The New York Times hypothesised that a growing absent mindedness, noted by many of Loewenstein's acquaintances, may have caused him to walk out the wrong door of the plane. Because he had left behind a tangled web of business ventures, many of which were highly leveraged, others theorized that his business empire was on the verge of collapse. Some even asserted that corrupt business practices were about to be exposed and that Loewenstein, therefore, committed suicide. None of these theories was ever proved.

In 1987, William Norris wrote Loewenstein's story in a book titled The Man Who Fell From the Sky (New York: Viking, 1987). Norris presents evidence in support of his case that, if his death was not a conspiracy by business rivals and associates, a certain opportunism existed regarding the death of the tycoon and his insurance. He also shows that later events are frequently ignored, such as the fact that Loewenstein's son shot one of the family servants under murky circumstances within a decade or so after the tragedy. The son eventually died in World War II. Norris concluded that Loewenstein had been thrown from the aircraft by Donald Drew, the pilot, at the behest of Madeleine Loewenstein, the motive being to gain control of Loewenstein's fortune. He suggested that the aircraft's rear door was completely removed while in the air and a replacement fitted on the beach at St. Pol.

Crime writers Robert & Carol Bridgestock have speculated that Loewenstein faked his own death and disappeared because the financial irregularities in his businesses. This theory is supported by the facts that the body was buried in an unmarked grave and that his wife did not attend the funeral.

Sources:

1. http://sofei-vandenaemet.skynetblogs.be/archive/2009/08/23/le-milliardaire-bruxellois-alfred-loewenstein-tombe-de-son-a.html
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Loewenstein#Disappearance
3. http://home.clara.net/clinchy/lowen.htm
4. [LINK NOT WORKING ANYMORE:http://surviving-history.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/high-jump-strange-death-of-alfred.html]
5. http://chipandtracy.com/pg/news/view/sj-history-mystery/the-strange-disappearance
6. Norris, William (1987). The Man Who Fell From the Sky. Viking. p. 2.
7. BBC Radio 4, 12 July 2014, Steve Punt Punt PI The Mysterious Death of Flying Millionaire Alfred Loewenstein
8. https://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?129668-Passenger-aircraft-1920s-Style-for-You-to-Identify&p=2243003#post2243003

Media:

 photo G-EBYI midair_zpsinmo64uk.jpg

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
08-May-2009 23:47 angels one five Added
10-May-2009 19:23 angels one five Updated
25-Sep-2010 08:50 TB Updated [Aircraft type, Narrative]
11-Oct-2010 14:35 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Other fatalities, Narrative]
12-Oct-2010 17:55 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Narrative]
02-Jan-2011 16:26 angels one five Updated [Source, Narrative]
31-Mar-2011 05:39 TB Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
31-Mar-2011 05:47 TB Updated [Operator, Source, Narrative]
01-Apr-2011 03:59 TB Updated [Registration]
19-Sep-2011 20:37 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
19-Sep-2011 20:45 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Narrative]
08-Oct-2011 04:01 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
28-Dec-2011 02:02 angels one five Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Narrative]
08-Mar-2012 08:40 TB Updated [Operator, Narrative]
24-May-2013 04:01 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
13-Dec-2013 00:11 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
18-Jun-2018 20:55 Dr. John Smith Updated [Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
17-Jan-2020 20:42 angels one five Updated [Narrative]

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