Near Middlefield, Massachusetts – May, 1907
(Exact date is unclear.)
At 8 a.m. on a morning in late May of 1907, aeronauts Leo Stevens and Harry Maroke took off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the famous balloon Le. Centaur. (This was the same balloon that had carried Count Henri de la Vaulx in a record breaking trip across Europe from Paris, France, to Kiev, Russia in October of 1900.)
The balloon quickly rose to 6,000 feet as the winds carried it on an eastern course. The craft reportedly rose so rapidly that the heat of the sun caused the gas inside to expand to the point where holes blew out in two different places creating leaks and a sudden loss of buoyancy. As the balloon began falling the men quickly ejected all ballast and other items of weight including their lunch baskets, shoes, and outer clothing. They did however keep the anchor and two other items, a stethoscope and a thermometer aboard.
At the time they were reportedly “near the town of Mansfield, Massachusetts”. As the balloon fell it was still being pushed along by strong winds, and it seemed certain to crash. As it neared the ground, the anchor was dropped and it caught on a fence and immediately tore it apart. The balloon continued on for another one-hundred feet before the anchor snagged in a maple tree which halted movement long enough for the occupants to quickly climb down the anchor rope and down the tree to safety.
It was reported that the damage to the balloon was such that it would never fly again. The balloon had a capacity of 1,600 cubic feet.
The Le Centaur was brought to the United States in 1906 by its owner, Count Henri de la Vaulx, and later acquired by the Aero Club of America.
The Evening World, (NY), “Frightful Fall In Burst Balloon”, May 24, 1907.
The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.), “Two Men Fall A Mile”, May 30, 1907. (This is not a new England newspaper and the exact date of this occurrence is not specified.)