Providence, RI – May 13, 1929

Providence R.I. – May 13, 1929

Edgewood Beach

      Edgewood Beach no longer exists, but from the late 1800s to the early 20th century it was a tourist and recreational destination during the warmer months. 

     Located on the city line of both Providence and Cranston, the beach was also the location of the former Washington Park Yacht Club which overlooked Narragansett Bay.

     On May 13, 1929, Major O. Caylor of Providence was flying his Challenger biplane over the area maneuvering his it through a series of stunts much to the delight of those watching below.  Also aboard was 21-year-old Ralph Kirker of Cranston, a registered U.S. Government aviation mechanic who was working towards his federal pilot’s license. 

      According to witnesses, the pilot was putting the plane through a series of aerobatic loops between 300 and 500 feet off the ground when at the end of a steep dive the plane began to rise skyward but then abruptly fell from the sky.  Some claimed they heard the engine stall, others said it was skipping.  Either way, the plane came in at a steep angle and slammed into the ground between the yacht club and Alabama Avenue.  

     One witness who was almost too close to the event was a young boy named Erwin Rydstrom, of 105 Alabama Avenue.  As the plane was plummeting towards the ground, Erwin realized he was directly in its path!  He barely had time to scramble out of the way as the aircraft dove into the very spot where he had been standing.

     Two other witnesses were Herbert E. Slayton and his wife who saw the crash from their home on Washington Avenue.  Mrs. Slayton, a nurse, ran to assist while her husband called Rhode Island Hospital for an ambulance.   

      As onlookers surrounded to the wreck they discovered that both men were still alive but critically injured.  By the time they reached the hospital only Kirker was still alive, but he succumbed to his injuries at 1:30 the following morning. 

     As news of the crash spread, hundreds of curious spectators descended on the scene, some of whom began to tear pieces off the fuselage as souvenirs.  The nose of the craft was buried in the ground and the fuselage had crumpled upon itself like an accordion, ripping the right wing off and spilling high octane aviation fuel.   

      Both Cranston and Providence police arrived on the scene to keep scavengers at bay. Since the plane had crashed very close to the city line, there was a question as to which police department would be responsible for the investigation, until it was finally determined that the plane had crashed six feet on the Providence side. 

      The investigation revealed that Caylor took off from Providence Airport at 5:41 p.m. and according to an airport official appeared to have trouble gaining altitude on take off.  The official stated that Caylor had pulled the nose of the aircraft up too soon causing the plane to loose lift and fall back to the ground.  On a second attempt he again pulled the nose up at what was described as a “dangerous angle” but managed to get airborne.  

     After leaving Providence, the plane was seen to circle What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket before heading south towards Edgewood Beach.    

     Investigators concluded that Mr. Caylor had been too low for conducting aerobatic loops, noting that federal regulations required an altitude of at least 1000 feet.  In addition, the pilot had been looping with the wind and not against it, which was considered a poor tactic. 

     Caylor had brought his plane to Rhode Island from Duncan, Oklahoma, four months earlier.  He had been in Oklahoma to start a flying school, but had changed his plans and returned to Rhode Island, where he got involved with an undertaking to establish a seaplane service between Providence, Newport, and Block Island.  After negotiations with Providence officials, a lease agreement was signed allowing Caylor to operate his air service out of Field’s Point in that city.  The venture was to be called Eastern Airways Inc. and was set to begin operations May 14th, the day after the crash.            

     Caylor had only been flying for about a year and reportedly had survived another plane crash in Florida only a few months earlier. His home was located at 1680 Broad Street, about a mile from the crash site.

     Ralph Kirker lived at 120 Norfolk Street in the Auburn section of Cranston.  He graduated from Cranston High School in 1926, and after graduation obtained aviation mechanic training at Mitchell Field on Long Island, New York.  From there he went to Chicago for advanced schooling before returning to Rhode Island in November of 1928 and began working towards obtaining his pilots license.  In the meantime he was hired by Caylor to be the mechanic for Eastern Airways, and the day he died was actually his first day on the job. 

     Edgewood Beach was a destination spot for more than seventy years. The Washington Park Yacht Club was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938.  During World War II the area was converted to a ship yard where “Liberty Ships” were produced in vast quantities for the war effort.  By the 1950s it was being used as a landfill. Today a college campus occupies the site.      


Providence Journal, “R.I. Fliers Killed In Plane Crash At Edgewood Beach”, May 14, 1929 Pg 1. 

Internet site;  Fields Point History


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