Wickford Harbor, R.I. – June 25, 1953

Wickford Harbor, North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 25, 1953

     On the morning of June 25, 1953, an AD Skyraider took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station to take part in search and rescue operations taking place in Exeter and West Greenwich, Rhode Island.  The night before, two F2H Banshee fighter jets out of Quonset had collided in mid-air, and one pilot, Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, was still missing.

     (For more information about the mid-air collision, see “Exeter/West Greenwich – June 24, 1953” under “Rhode Island Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.)

     Just after take off the Skyraider developed engine trouble and crashed in Wickford Harbor.  The pilot, Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring, and the two-man crew, Joseph K. Keeple Jr., 21, of Pinehurst, Mass., and Donald F. Hart, 20, of Albany, N.Y., all escaped without injury.   

     Commander Baring related to the press that this was the 18th plane crash he’d survived during his career. 

     His commanding officer, Commander Robert M. Miner credited Baring with a perfect crash-landing and for keeping the aircraft away from populated areas.

Source: Providence Journal, “Searchers Fail To Find Trace Of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.  (200 men comb West Greenwich Crash Area In Vain; Three fliers unhurt in Wickford harbor plunge.)   


North Kingstown, R.I. – August 21, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 21, 1944

The Rose Hill area of Saunderstown


U.S. Navy Avengers National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On August 21, 1944, a flight of TBM Avengers out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were flying in formation over southern Rhode Island when one aircraft grazed its wing against the elevator of another sending it down over the Saunderstown section of North Kingstown.  The plane’s wing struck the roof of a vacant house belonging to Mrs. Mabel Barton before it crashed nose first into the side yard and exploded.  Flaming gasoline showered the home and set it ablaze.  All three crewmen aboard were killed instantly.

     The three men who lost their lives were:

     Walter Lee Miller Jr., 21, of Morton, Texas.

     Joseph Camel Beam, 20, of Pottstown, Penn.

     Donald Joseph Finkler, 19, of Cleveland, Ohio

     The other aircraft involved in the accident made it safely back to Quonset NAS.

     At the time of the crash, an 8-year-old boy was playing in his front yard nearby the Barton home, and suffered minor burns as a result of the flaming gasoline. 

     One eyewitness told reporters that after falling out of formation, the pilot had raced the motor in an effort to gain altitude.

     A second house in which an elderly invalid woman was residing was also set ablaze.  She was rescued by two Coast Guardsmen, Meredith E. Dobry, and Daniel Caruso, who happened to be in the area at the time of the crash.     


Providence Journal, “Three Quonset Airmen Die As Plane Falls, Fires House”, August 22, 1944, Pg. 1

New York Times, “Plane Hits House; 3 Die”, August 22, 1944 

Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.


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