Foxborough, MA. – July 6, 1975

Foxborough, Massachusetts – July 6, 1975

 

     On July 6, 1975, two Rhode Island men took off from the town of North Providence, R.I., in a hot air balloon.  One man was an experienced balloon pilot, and the other was taking his second flight in a balloon.  

     The balloon was carried by shifting winds to the northeast, and eventually the men found themselves approaching the town of Foxborough and running low on propane fuel.  The pilot lowered the balloon over an area of town known as Cocasset River Park, and both men jumped from the gondola and landed in the river.  They swam to shore without injury.

     Meanwhile, the balloon, relieved of their weight, rose again and continued its course, passing over the center of Foxborough before it came down in St. Mary’s Cemetery located at the intersection of Mechanic and Chestnut Streets.  Two concrete crosses were knocked over in the incident, but police described the damage as insignificant.  

     Source:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Two Jump Into River From Runaway Balloon”, July 7, 1975    

Newburyport, MA. – August 8, 1914

Newburyport, Massachusetts – August 8, 1914

 

     On Saturday, August 8, 1914, a balloon ascension was scheduled to take place in an open area near the North End Boat Club in Newburyport, and a large crowd had gathered to see the event.  The balloon was anchored between two 40-foot-tall poles as it was being prepared for flight.  A wind was blowing, and at one point a strong gust hit the balloon sending it against one of the poles.  The pole snapped three feet from the ground, and fell directly into the waiting crowd seriously injuring a man and woman, and killing an 11-month-old baby who was in a carriage.   

     Source:

     The Barre Daily Times, (Vermont), “killed At Balloon Ascension – Baby In Newburyport Crowd Crushed By Falling Flag Pole.”, August 10, 1914, page 3.      

 

Taunton, MA. – September 24, 1902

Taunton, Massachusetts – September 24, 1902

 

     On September 24, 1902, the Bristol County Agricultural Society Fair was being held in Taunton, Massachusetts, and part of the entertainment featured balloon ascensions, and parachute drops. 

     One ascension was made safely by a man identified as Professor Stafford in the early afternoon.  Another was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. later that day, which would include a triple parachute drop to be performed by the professor,  his wife, and an assistant, Louis Girard. 

     At 4:30 p.m., the balloon lifted from the ground, but almost immediately it was apparent that something was wrong, and Mrs. Stafford dropped away safely. 

     The balloon then quickly rose to a height of 400 feet where it began to rip apart and collapse.  At this point the professor dropped away with his parachute and landed safely, but Girard became entangled in the ropes and couldn’t free himself.   The balloon came crashing down and struck with great force.  Girard was pulled unconscious from the wreck and taken to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries.  

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Aeronaut Killed”, September 25, 1902 

Clinton, MA – September 14, 1899

Clinton, Massachusetts – September 14, 1899

     On September 14, 1899, the eleventh annual Worcester East Agricultural Fair was in progress in Clinton, Massachusetts, a small town to the northeast of Worcester, Mass.  Part of the advertised entertainment included a balloon ascension and parachute drop to be performed by a Boston aeronaut identified as “Professor Beaumont”.   

     Just as the balloon began to rise, the crowd of 5,000 spectators could see that the bottom of the wicker basket was on fire, which was not part of the act.  Beaumont was powerless to do anything from his position, and was forced to stay with the balloon as it continued to rise and burn.  (How the fire was believed to have begun was not stated.)

     Finally the balloon reached an altitude where it was safe for Beaumont to jump and deploy his parachute, which he did, and landed without injury.

     Source: The Daily Morning Journal And Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “Balloon Caught Fire” September 15, 1899

 

Boston, MA – May 23, 1896

Boston, Massachusetts – May 23, 1896

     At 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, 1896, a balloon ascension was scheduled to take place at the Congress Street ball fields in Boston.  The man advertised to fly the balloon was an aeronaut identified only as “Strickland”. 

    At the appointed time the balloon was to rise to an altitude of 5,000 feet where Strickland was to perform daring feats on a trapeze suspended beneath the balloon, and then drop using a parachute and land back on the ball fields.   Unfortunately as the balloon was being filled with hot air it was accidentally set on fire and quickly eaten by the flames. 

     The crowd, of course, demanded a refund of their ticket money, which likely would have been done, however, some chose not to wait and started a riot.  During the melee a dozen people were injured and Strickland himself, it was reported, “would have been killed but for the resistance of a squad of policemen.”       

     Source: Vermont Phoenix, “Massachusetts Notes – Balloon Ascended In Smoke”, May 29, 1896

Worcester, MA – August 22, 1906

Worcester, Massachusetts – August 22, 1906 

Updated August 6, 2017

     On the evening of August 22, 1906, 15-year-old Charles Mayo of New York was to be paid five dollars to make a balloon ascension all by himself from the grounds of an amusement park.  (There is no mention of his having any previous experience with balloons.) 

     After being tied in the wicker basket hanging beneath the balloon, the ascension was made, but in coming down the basket slammed into the roof of the Philip W. Moen mansion knocking off the top of the chimney and tearing away some of the roof tiling.  It was reported that Mayo received “severe injuries” to his legs, back, and head, from the impact. 

     Sources:

     New York Tribune, (No Headline), August 24, 1906, page 3, under general news.      

     Spirit Of The Age, (Woodstock, Vt.) “Boy Hurt In Balloon”, August 25, 1906 

Springfield, MA – May 28, 1910

Springfield, Massachusetts – May 28, 1910

 

     On the evening of May 28, 1910, the balloon Springfield, took off from the Court Square extension in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, with five men aboard.  The trip was reported to be “another comet party”, presumably to observe Halley’s Comet which was present in the nighttime sky at that time.   

     The pilot was J. B Benton, of Boston.  Passengers included David P. Todd, a professor at Amherst College; two Amherst students, Robert Wells of Paris, France, and Nelson Waite; and Boston businessman Louis Dederick. 

     The balloon lifted slowly upwards as it drifted towards the railroad tracks of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.  While only about twenty feet in the air, the balloon lines leading from the passenger gondola to the balloon netting got snagged on wires suspended over the tracks.  The balloon was now bobbing above the wires while the gondola with its cargo was left helplessly dangling beneath, directly over the tracks.  A crowd gathered as the occupants struggled to free the lines, but before much could be done, the sounds of an approaching express train could be heard. 

     The train showed no signs of slowing as it approached, but fortunately it only grazed the gondola as it sped past and continued on its way without stopping. 

     After recovering from what they thought was their certain end, the men decided to abandon their plans for a balloon flight for that evening. 

     Sources:

     New York Tribune, “Express Grazes Balloon”, May 29, 1910 

     Omaha Daily Bee, (Omaha, Neb.) “Train And Balloon Nearly Collide”, May 30, 1910

Near Middlefield, MA – May, 1907

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.    

     Sources:

     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.)   

 

Springfield, MA – April 20, 1910

Springfield, Massachusetts – April 20, 1910

 

     old balloonOn the afternoon of April 20, 1910, A. Holland Forbes of the New York Aero Club, along with John Parker and William Hull, were making a balloon ascension from Court Square in Springfield, Massachusetts, when the balloon veered towards a tall tree.  The balloon struck the tree-top which was about 100 feet off the ground, and was briefly caught in the upper branches.  When it broke free, it began swiftly heading towards the upper floors of a nearby apartment building.  Mr. Forbes immediately tossed out several hundred pounds of sand-ballast which caused the balloon to abruptly rise straight upwards barely missing the building. 

     It was reported that ,”The danger was over in so short a time and the balloon was gliding rapidly northward almost before the 3,000 spectators were aware of it.”

     The balloon later landed in Hadley, Massachusetts, about twenty-five miles distant.

     Source: The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Forbes Balloon Runs Into Tree”, April 21, 1910, page 5 

Mt. Greylock, MA – August 3, 1912

Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts – August 3, 1912

 

    Early balloon with net On August 3, 1912, the balloon Boston, piloted by J. J. Van Valkenburg, president of the Aero Club of New England, ascended from Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Also aboard was William C. Hill, treasurer of the club.  The balloon sailed northeastward towards Mt. Greylock, in the town of Adams.  While over the mountain, it hit what was described in the press as an “air hole” and abruptly dropped 1,500 feet and smashed into the tops of some trees.  It then inexplicably rose again, soaring to an altitude of 6,000 feet.  It then continued on a northeasterly course until landing in Rowe, Massachusetts.  Nether man was reported to be hurt. 

     Research has found another balloon flight over Mt. Greylock that almost ended in disaster.   On September 19, 1884, Mr. J. A. Rogers of Boston ascended in a balloon from North Adams, Massachusetts, to an altitude of 10,000 feet where he began to suffer from hypothermia.  As the balloon passed over Mt. Greylock it began to fall at a rapid rate, and it was with great effort that Rogers was able to throw out enough ballast to prevent the craft from crashing into the rocky summit.  With disaster averted, the balloon sailed off to the southwest and landed in Williamstown, Mass.            

     Sources:

     The Democratic Advocate, (Westminster, MD.), “Balloonist Drop 1500 Feet, Then Bounce Mile”, August 16, 1912 

     Daily Evening Bulletin, (Maysville, KY.) “Balloon Ascension”, September 22, 1884

    

 

Worcester, MA – July 30, 1892

Worcester, Massachusetts – July 30, 1892 

 

     balloon On July 30, 1892, Professor Blondie Willies was scheduled to give a balloon exhibition in Worcester.  As preparations for the ascent were being made, volunteers held the balloon earthbound with anchor ropes.  Then a sudden thunderstorm blew in, and heavy winds and rain buffeted the balloon, causing it to get away from the men who were attempting to hold it down.   As the balloon began to rise, one man, identified as Benjamin Long, got his right foot caught in the loop at the end of the rope he was holding and was yanked off his feet and pulled upwards.  Five thousand  people had gathered to watch the ascension, and those who hadn’t sought shelter watched in horror as Long was seen dangling by his leg as the empty and untethered balloon continued to rise and thunder and lightning raged all around.  

     Long did the only thing he could do under the circumstances, and that was to begin maneuvering in such a way as to be able to grab hold of the parachute suspended beneath the balloon and pull the cut-off rope.  He fell for fifty feet before the chute deployed, however the wind carried him over a nearby lake where he landed in the water.  After swimming ashore on his own, he was greeted to cheers and applause by those who had witnessed the incident.  None was more relieved to see Long safe than his mother, who had accompanied him to the event.

     Source:

     Turner County Herald, (Hurley, So. Dakota) “A Scene Not Advertised”,(A Man Carried Up Head Downwards By A Balloon.) August 11, 1892  

Boston, MA – July 9, 1862

Boston, Massachusetts – July 9, 1862

 

    old balloon At about 7:00 p.m. on the evening of July 9, 1862, a balloon named the “Star Spangled Banner” piloted by Samuel A. King, ascended from the Boston Common with four passengers aboard.  Once aloft it was unexpectedly blown seaward, and then fell at a rapid rate to the water.  The gondola was dragged through the water of Boston Harbor as several boats gave chase in an attempt to rescue its occupants.  One steam powered boat, the Huron, managed to catch up and rescue the aeronauts after securing a line to the balloon.  Once the men were safely aboard, the line snapped, and the now empty balloon shot up into the sky and disappeared in the clouds.

     Source:

     The New York Herald, “Ascension Of The Great Balloon “Star Spangled Banner” From Boston Common – Peril Of The Aeronauts”, July 11, 1862     

 

    

Lowell, MA – August 31, 1907

Lowell, Massachusetts – August 31, 1907

 

    old balloon On Saturday, August 31, 1907, Harry M. Maynard of Lynn, Massachusetts, was scheduled to give a parachute exhibition sponsored by the Stafford Balloon Club of Boston at a pleasure resort known as Lake View.  The plan had been for Maynard to ascend to a pre-designated height in a balloon, and then jump using two parachutes.  After the first chute deployed, he was to cut himself away from it, and free fall until the second chute opened allowing him to land safely.   

     Maynard jumped as planned, but the first parachute didn’t open until he was only 400 feet above the ground.  He then cut away from the first chute, but was now too low for the second to deploy successfully.  He came down on the roof of a bowling alley and died three minutes later.

     The incident was viewed by 7,000 people.

     Source:

     Pullman Herald, (Washington) “Fell 400 Feet To Death”, September 7, 1907   

He Nearly Drowned In A Balloon -1906

He Nearly Drowned In A Balloon – 1906 

19th Century Illustration Of An Early Aeronaut

19th Century Illustration

Of An Early Aeronaut

     Being blown out to sea was one the biggest fears of early aeronauts who took to the sky in balloons, for weight considerations didn’t allow for life rafts, and chances of survival were slim.  Such an experience happened to “Professor” James K. Allen, a famous Rhode Island balloonist, in 1906. 

     Allen took off in his balloon from Providence on July 4, 1906, as part of a Fourth of July celebration.  The weather was threatening, but Allen didn’t want to disappoint the huge crowds who had come to witness the ascension.

     Allen lifted off shortly after noon time, but a few minutes into the flight he realized there was a problem with the craft’s drag rope and anchor, so he set down to fix the problem.  He came down on the Bowen estate just outside Providence.  (The present-day location of the former Bowen estate is unknown.)  The balloon was 52 feet high and 28 feet wide, decorated with numerous flags for Independence Day, which attracted a lot of attention as it came in to land, and Allen had no trouble finding volunteers to hold the balloon down while he made the necessary repairs.  Ten minutes later he was finished, and once again took off. 

     Wind currents carried him north towards Attleboro, Massachusetts, where he lost considerable altitude, but after dropping ballast bags full of sand to attain more altitude, the balloon shot upwards to a height of 10,000 feet. 

     “I tell you it was a fine sight, ” he later told reporters, “those clouds rolled up in banks, like mountains of snow way down underneath the balloon.  Sometimes the clouds look dark when you get over them, but these clouds were light and white, as they look after a storm.” 

     When asked how fast he was going at this point, Allen replied, “Ah, I was fooled up there.  It was blowing something fierce, and I couldn’t tell how fast I was going.  I guess I was going along over the clouds for a couple of hours when I saw the water.  Then I let out some gas, and came down a little to get my bearings, for I didn’t want to go out to sea.  I kept going out, however, and apparently to the southeast, but it was stormy and raining, and I couldn’t very well tell just where I was.”

     Just as it was getting dark Allen realized he was passing over Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the very tip of Cape Cod, and being pushed out to sea.  In the fading light he let out all five-hundred feet of his drag rope as well as the anchor which caught in the water below and pulled him down to about one hundred feet above the waves.  The drag rope also served to reduce his speed, but high winds were still pushing him away from shore.  With a cloudy sky and no moon, Allen found himself traveling along in utter darkness.  

     Shortly after midnight the gondola struck the water drenching its occupant.  “The minute we touched the water, “Allen related, “I grabbed the ropes overhead and I was none too quick for the basket was almost submerged.  I threw out a few bagfuls of sand and went up again, about a hundred feet, I guess, but about an hour later I struck the water again and got another good soaking.”     

     Each time the gondola went into the water Allen was forced to drop more ballast to allow the balloon to rise up again.  By dawn he had received three dunkings. 

     As the sky grew lighter, he saw a steamship approaching from the opposite direction, but despite his efforts to signal for help the ship kept going.  Somehow the bridge crew and the lookout had missed the huge colorful balloon bobbing just above the surface.   “I shouted,” said Allen, “but I guess she didn’t see me, for she paid no attention to me and kept right on her course.”

     About an hour later the balloon was seen by the crew of a tugboat that was pulling several barges.   Allen signaled for help, and the tug captain cut the barges loose and gave chase, but the wind picked up and blew the balloon faster than the tug could go, and the boat’s captain was forced to abandon his rescue efforts.

     “I was tearing along at a pretty good pace in spite of the drag.” (rope) Allen related.

     Later he came upon a fishing schooner with two long boats in the water, and the crew of one of the boats managed to grab ahold of the drag rope behind the balloon and secure it to the boat.  The boat came along side to help, yet the wind was still blowing hard enough that the balloon began pulling the boats! 

     “When I saw they held on,” Allen recalled, “I began letting out the gas, and I got down lower and lower, until finally I landed safely in one of the dories as pretty as you could wish, and stepped out.  It was pretty calm by this time, and we didn’t have much trouble with the balloon.  The schooner came up and Captain John V. Silva invited me on board.”    

     The schooner was the Francis V. Silva out of Provincetown, Massachusetts.  The location of Mr. Allen’s rescue was ten miles off Chatham, Mass.  

      When asked by the press how many times he had flown in a balloon, Allen replied, “About 400 times; 185 times I’ve cut loose from earth; the other times I just ascended in the balloon while it was tied by a rope 400 to 500 feet.  It’s the best fun in the world.”

     As a point of fact, it had originally been planned for Mr. Allen’s wife to accompany him on this flight.  After his harrowing adventure, he was happy she stayed behind.  

     This was not Mr. Allen’s only brush with death in his flying career.  See “Providence, R. I. – July 16, 1892”, under “Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents” on this website. 

     Source:

     (Woonsocket R.I. )Evening Reporter, “Balloonist Is Rescued”, July 7, 1906.     

     Update, February 7, 2017

     Thirty-five years before the above mentioned incident, Mr. Allen had another adventure in one of the family balloons.  

     On July 4, 1871, James K. Allen made an ascension at Troy, New York, in his balloon the “Empyrean“.  The balloon held 15,000 cubic feet of gas, and was reportedly “gaily trimmed with bunting and natural flowers.”   

     The balloon rose to over 12,000 feet and drifted over the upstate New York countryside, rising and falling at different times.  After an uneventful flight, the Empyrean came down in a large tract of wilderness, and Allen was forced to climb down the tree in which it had become entangled.  As he was doing so a branch broke under his weight and he landed hard on the ground below, but wasn’t seriously injured.  He lacked a compass, and using his own best judgement, hiked his way to help.  he eventually came to a farm in Putnam, New York, about 100 miles from Troy.  

     The Allen’s of Providence, Rhode Island, have been called the first family of Rhode Island aviation.  Besides the Empyrean, they reportedly owned two other balloons, “Monarch of the Air“, and the “Jupiter Olympus”  

     Source:

     Rutland Weekly Herald, (VT.), “A Perilous Balloon Ascension And Narrow Escape Of The Aeronaut”, July 20, 1871 

Updated February 26, 2017

     The following article appeared in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian, (St. Johnsbury, VT.) on October 11, 1895

AN AERONAUT’S ESCAPE 

     The Boston Journal last week had a sensational account of the marvelous escape from death of the well known aeronaut, James K. Allen, of Providence, R.I.  Mr. Allen has many friends in St. Johnsbury, and has made successful ascensions from our fairground.  His adventure came near costing his life.  He became suffocated by escaping gas, and would have fallen from the balloon had not his two companions caught him and held him by his heels until the balloon drifted to earth again.  As the companions knew nothing about the management of balloons, it took the air ship 45 minutes to reach the ground, and when terra firma was reached the professor was crazy.  His two companions declared that nothing would hire them to go up in a balloon again.

     Source: St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “An Aeronaut’s Escape”, October 11, 1895    

Revere, MA – August 2, 1901

Revere, Massachusetts – August 2, 1901

 

    balloon At about 5 p.m., on August 2, 1901, aeronaut Frank P. McBride, of Meriden, Connecticut, made a balloon ascension from the Point-of-Pines section of the town of Revere.  Just as the balloon reached an altitude of 100 feet it suddenly collapsed, and began to fall.  McBride was too low to use his parachute, and was forced to stay with the balloon.  Thankfully a cross-wind helped to slow the craft’s downward speed, pushing it sideways as it fell.  When the gondola hit the ground McBride was flipped from the basket and landed on his feet, breaking a bone in his left heel and injuring his back.

     McBride was injured in another balloon accident on July 18, 1901, when he ascended from Ulmer Park, New Jersey.  While over Brooklyn, New York, a strong wind buffeted his balloon against trees and buildings before he was finally pitched through a window. 

      Source: The Meriden Weekly Republican, “Aeronaut McBride Hurt Near Boston”, August 8, 1901

    

Barnstable, MA – September 2, 1907

Barnstable Massachusetts – September 2, 1907

     On September, 2, 1907, Professor Maloney, a balloonist, was scheduled to give an exhibition at the Barnstable County Fair.  The show was to include an ascent in his balloon, followed by a parachute jump. 

     As the balloon rose to altitude, Maloney was in a seat suspended underneath, intending to cut the ropes holding it in place to allow it to fall, thereby letting the parachute deploy.  However, at the height of 2,000 feet, a strong wind took the rope connected to the knife, and flung it into a group of cords connected to the balloon where it became entangled.   Maloney was now unable to reach the knife, and found himself in a precarious situation.  He was couldn’t descend, for he had not control over the balloon, and he was unable to drop with his parachute because he couldn’t cut himself away.   He was now at the mercy of the wind.        

     The balloon drifted for two miles when Maloney realized the gas was rapidly leaking from the envelope.  He began to loose altitude, slowly at first, then faster and faster.   Looking down,  all he could do was watch the earth loom closer knowing there was no way to slow his descent.  All he could hope for was something to provide a soft landing.

     As he neared the ground portions of the now almost deflated balloon draped around him preventing him from seeing where he was falling. Just as he was to impact the ground, the seat struck a cedar fence post, which somewhat broke his fall.  As he crashed to the ground he suffered serious back and arm injuries, but he was alive.   

     A long line of automobiles had given chase from the fair, and arrived at the scene of the crash.  Maloney was taken in a semi-conscious condition to his hotel in downtown Barnstable where he was treated by a doctor who determined he would recover.   

     Source: The Butler Weekly Times, “Fell 2,000 Feet Upon A Post”, September 5, 1907

Barnstable, MA – August 31, 1921

Barnstable, Massachusetts – August 31, 1921

     On August 31, 1921, a balloon ascension and parachute jump demonstration was scheduled to be given at the Barnstable fair grounds in celebration of Governor’s Day. 

     As the balloon stood fully inflated before a crowd of 20,000 people, someone erroneously gave the order for it to be released without making sure it was safe to do so.  As it rose from the ground, 22-year-old Edward Wolfe of New Bedford became entangled in one of the ropes and was  pulled upwards by his legs.  Wolf managed to quickly free himself and fell about ten feet to the ground suffering numerous bumps and bruises. 

     Meanwhile the balloon continued upwards with 22-year-old A. Morin, the parachutist, still aboard.  At the proper altitude, Morin jumped and deployed his chute, but when he was barely 100 feet above the ground, the wind tore his parachute, sending him plummeting onto a hillside where he broke his right leg and several ribs. 

     Source: Falmouth Enterprise, “Mishaps Mar Balloon Ascension At Fair”, September 3, 1921   

        

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