The Royal Mail Air Ship Gwenedd's Pride was a luxury liner launched in 1968. In January, 1973 a mishap happened while cruising the Mediterranean at night. A freak fire happened in the worst possible place and moment--in the engine room at high altitude above a storm. The fire control system worked very well, but the balance of the huge ship was now "off" and the engines were offline. She rapidly lost altitude where the winds of a heavy storm tossed her around and a rip in her side resulted in taking on water, which made her drop even lower. Countermeasures proved only partially successful.
An evacuation was ordered. Since time was short, the Captain gave the order "Women and children first." Roughly a third of those who did not abandon ship were killed, nearly fifty persons in all. Most drowned when the ship hit the water. One of those was Prince Medrad, younger brother to Kemr's King and widely considered one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.
This accident led to a redesign of some systems in virtually all major airships in the world. It has also been the fodder of conspiracy theories. Some of the most prominent:
- This was a warning and/or test-run by operatives of the SNOR regime. Many in the Anti-Snorist Movement took this view as a matter of faith.
- A cabal of leaders with the Kemrese government used this as a means of assasinating Prince Medrad (who had become romantically involved with American actress Gloria Dawson). (Errol Redfern wrote a book with this premise)
- The ship's design was deliberately made accident prone so the owners could collect on insurance. This was fueled in part by the somewhat antique "look" of the airship.
- Since the accident happened in the same (very) general vicinity as the sinking of the Imperial battleship Weimar during the Second Great War a legend has grown up that spirits of the Kriegsmarine sailors who died want revenge and that any ship approaching that spot does so only at grave, supernatural risk.
A formal inquiry determined that the fault was a minor design flaw coupled with a rare series of accidents.