Narragansett Bay, R. I. – July 16, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the morning of July 16, 1943, Ensign Joseph Paul Staar was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25848), over southern Narragansett Bay as part of a training flight.  The purpose of the flight was “Fighter Director Practice”, and Staar’s aircraft was part of a large group of aircraft.  

     As the flight of Hellcats was in the vicinity of Newport, Rhode Island, another aircraft made two diving passes at them from out of the sun.  On the second pass Ensign Staar’s aircraft entered a “high speed stall” due to “an abrupt climbing turn”, which led to his crashing into the water about 500 yards off Brenton Point in Newport.  He did not survive. 

     Source:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-7667 

 

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – June 28, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – June 28, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of June 28, 1943, Ensign Sven Rolfsen, Jr., was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 80908), at 30,000 feet over Narragansett Bay when the engine suddenly lost all power.  He put the plane into a glide and tried to restart the engine, but without success.  He was forced to make an emergency water landing on Narragansett Bay in an area just off shore from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.   Rolfsen was able to climb out of the plane before it sank.   He was not injured.

     Source:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #43-7446

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – November 27, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – November 27, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 27, 1943, Ensign Paul M. Churton took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 65925), for a routine training flight.  Approximately two minutes into the flight the aircraft motor started cutting out and then stopped altogether, forcing Churton to make an emergency landing in Narragansett Bay.  Ensign Churton escaped from the aircraft uninjured. 

     Investigation revealed that the same aircraft had been grounded three times by three different pilots the previous day for the same problem, and each time it had been placed back in service by the mechanics.  After examining the recovered aircraft, a crack was found in the engine which had allowed foreign matter to impede fuel and oil flow.   

     Ensign Churton was assigned to VF-14.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9977

Off Prudence Island, R.I. – October 26, 1984

Off Prudence Island, Rhode Island – October 26, 1984

     On the evening of October 26,1984, a small private plane with a husband and wife aboard left T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I., bound for Prudence Island, an island located in Narragansett Bay.   The couple owned property on Prudence Island, and routinely commuted via airplane to the mainland.

     The plane left T.F. Green at 6:40 p.m.  The weather at the time was cloudy and rain was falling.  At 8:25 p.m. that night the plane was reported overdue.

     The following morning, two friends of the missing couple began a search using an aircraft, and spotted the wreckage in 8 feet of water between Prudence Island and Patience Island.  The tails section had been torn away by the crash.

     Divers recovered the body of the wife inside the aircraft, but the husband was reportedly missing.  

     Source:

     The Day, “One Dead, One Missing In R.I. Plane Crash”, October 28, 1984

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

    

     On May 2, 1944, a TBM-1C Avenger, (25430) was taking off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station when a wing folded and the plane crashed into Narragansett Bay off the end of Runway 19. 

     The Avenger generally carried three men, and there was at least one casualty.  Lieut. (Jg. )William Hinson Gallagher, 22, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was killed.   He’s buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, in plot DX-121. 

     For photos of his gravesite go to the find-a-grave link below and click on “Search 121 grave records”.   www.findagrave.com    

     It is unknown at the time of this posting if there were other fatalities involved with this accident.

Sources:

Rhode Island Department Of health Death Records.

Find A Grave website www.findagrave.com

Larry Webster – Aviation Historian & Archeologist

 

 

 

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

     On September 1, 1944, Lt. Charles W. Turner took off from  Hillsgrove Army Air Field in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (42-8666) for a routine training flight.  At some point the aircraft developed engine trouble and Turner was forced to make a belly landing in the water about 3/4 of a mile off Conimicut Point, between the Conimicut and Pomham light houses.

     As the plane sank, Turner scrambled out and inflated his life vest which kept him afloat in the chilly water.  As luck would have it, he landed near a boat with two teenagers inside, Amy Heddenberg, 15, and William Smythe, 16, who quickly rescued the downed airman.  

     Turner was brought ashore at the foot of Stokes Street in Warwick, where he was met by Warwick police patrolman Albert Izzi who brought the pilot back to Hillsgrove.  Turner was standing before his commanding officer before rescue parties from Hillsgrove had reached the shore. 

     The plane was wrecked, but Turner was unhurt.   

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Army Pilot Unhurt In Crash Into Bay”, September 2, 1944, Pg. 3

    

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Rhode Island

      On July 27, 1928, a U. S. Navy Loeing amphibian aircraft was on a training flight over Narragansett Bay with three men aboard.  The pilot was Ensign Forrest Lockwood McGurk, (USNR) who was receiving flight instruction from Lt. Jg. Thomas J. Kirkland.  Also aboard was Aviation Mechanic Oathe M. Sloane. 

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m., McGurk was attempting to turn the plane in anticipation of a water landing when the plane suddenly went into a spin and crashed into the bay between Conanicut Point and Prudence Island.  Lt. Kirkland was able to free himself and then pull Sloane from the rear cockpit, but McGurk was pinned in the wreckage and sank with the plane.  Twice Kirkland dove under water in an attempt to free him, but was unable.  Fortunately Kirkland and Sloane were able to cling to a wingtip pontoon which had broken free from the impact, and floated for fifteen minutes before being rescued by a boat from the naval torpedo station in Newport.

     When the aircraft was later hauled to the surface, it took over an hour to remove Ensign McGurk’s body. 

     Ensign McGurk was one day shy of his 24th birthday.  He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in May of 1927, and received his officer’s commission five months later.  Two days prior to the crash, he reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Wright in Newport to continue his flight training before his upcoming sea duty.    

     It was reported that this was the third navy plane crash off Newport in seven weeks. Lt. Homer N. Wilkinson was killed on June 9, 1928, when his plane crashed on the shore of Jamestown, R.I..  Commander Thalbert N. Alford, and Lt. Cmdr. William Butler Jr. were killed when their plane crashed in Narragansett Bay on July 2, 1928.       

Source:

Providence Journal, “Student Aviator Killed As Plane Crashes Into Bay”, July 28, 1928 pg. 1

             

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

 

DFP50096     Nels J. Nelson was sixteen when the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  Eight years later he was building his own airplanes in New Britain, Connecticut.  His first airplane made its maiden flight over Plainfield, Connecticut, May 1st, 1911. 

      Nelson took to giving flying exhibitions which were well received by a public eager to see what those “new fangled flying machines” could do.  By 1913 he’d developed what he called a “Hydroplane” capable of taking off and landing in water.  On July 1, 1913, Nelson flew his Hydroplane over Providence, Rhode Island, where he circled the area of Exchange Place and City Hall twice before making a turn around the dome of the state capitol.  From there he flew south where he landed in the water just off shore from the famous Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick.  The purpose of the flight was to generate interest in several flying exhibitions he was to give at Rocky Point as part of the 4th of July celebration festivities.  Advertisements of his arrival had been posted in local papers for several days. 

     Mr. Nelson was scheduled to give three exhibitions on July 4th; at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.  An article that appeared in The Woonsocket Call on July 5th described the first flight; “Shortly before 10 o’clock Nels Nelson sailed his 70 horse-power flying boat out into the bay in front of the Mansion House, watched by thousands of interested spectators.  The motor began to buzz and immediately the huge hydroplane commenced to skim at a rapid rate over the water.  As soon as the maximum speed was attained, the planes were slanted and the boat rose into the air, dripping like a sea gull which had captured its prey.  For a few moments Nelson drove the machine on the level – about 12 feet from the surface of the bay.  Soon, however, he rose higher until it became necessary to tip back one’s head to watch the flight.  Higher and higher went the boat, finally becoming but a speck in the sky sailing towards Prudence Island.”    

      On the second flight of the day Nelson took 21-year-old Irving Tukey aboard as a passenger.  The take-off went smoothly and the flight was uneventful until the aircraft was returning to land.  As Nelson was making his final approach, he cut power to the engine in anticipation of gliding down to the water, but at that instant, a strong gust of wind caught the plane and sent it into a sharp down-turn into the Narragansett Bay from an altitude of 60 feet.  

     Tukey suffered a broken wrist, a laceration to his forehead and numerous bumps and bruises.  Nelson was battered and dazed, but otherwise alright.  Both men were rescued by a private boat that was anchored nearby watching the festivities. 

     What became of Nelson’s hydroplane isn’t recorded, but the accident didn’t deter him from further flying.  The following September he flew another plane that he had built from New Britain, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois.

      Mr. Nelson died in 1964 at the age of 77.  Many of his fellow aviators never reached middle age. His interest in aviation continued throughout his life.  Between 1903 and 1964, (the span of 61 years), he had witnessed the birth of the airplane, the jet, the rocket, and manned space flight.     

 Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, “Birdman Flies At Rocky Point”, July 3, 1913, Page 10

The Woonsocket Call, “Fourth Big Day At Rocky Point”, July 5, 1913, Page. 2

The Woonsocket Call, “Drop Into Bay”, July 7, 1913, Page 1

Internet website  www.earlyaviators.com Nels J. Nelson, 1887-1964

 

 

 

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