Whilst over the Humber the [ZR-2] airship carried out some high speed turns.
The stress on the fuselage was too much and the craft broke in two, causing a large explosion, which blew out windows in Hull.
It crashed in flames into the Humber just off Hull’s Victoria Pier. The accident happened at about 5:30 in the afternoon on the 24th August 1921. Thousands witnessed the crash as people, making their way home from work, stopped to watch the giant airship manoeuvring over the estuary.
The appalling disaster to the greatest dirigible balloon ever built, the ZR-2, which exploded and fell into the River Humber, in England, on the afternoon of August 24, has provoked blunt skepticism throughout the world as to the value of this aircraft. the main girders, to which the power plants were attached, broke. When the pity and the horror occasioned by this catastrophe have calmed, the public will begin asking very searching questions as to whether this perilous game is worth the candle.
Eyewitness reports confirmed that the ship seemed to crumple along mid section and then the front section broke. It detonated in two explosions killing 44 crew. The tail section tilted and fell towards the Humber estuary. Five members of the crew in the tail section were saved from the tail wreckage which had not caught fire.
The official report attributes structural weakness as the cause of the crash, but the board of enquiry did not offer any technical opinions on the disaster. The ship had been built far stronger than the comparable L-71, but the L-71 was not capable of being maneuvered as sharply, and was thus protected from the higher stresses exerted on the R38/ZRII.