Parachute Accident, Portland, ME., 1909

Portland, Maine – July 4, 1909

Updated June 15, 2017

 

     As part of a July 4th celebration in Portland, Maine, Professor Joseph Laroux of Portland, and his assistant, James Corcoran, 28, of Lowell, Massachusetts, were scheduled to give an exhibition of a triple parachute jump from a hot-air balloon.  The plan was to have Corcoran ascend in the balloon to an altitude of 6,000 feet while Laroux stayed on the ground.  When the balloon had reached the required safe altitude, the Professor was to fire a series of gun shots as a signal for Corcoran to jump. 

     Shortly after 4 p.m., the balloon took off from the Eastern Promenade before a crowd of 5,000 spectators.  When it had risen barely 500 feet, some members of the crowd began firing revolvers into the air which confused Corcoran into believing it was safe to jump.   Corcoran hit the ground before the first parachute could open receiving fatal injuries. 

     Mr. Corcoran was survived by his wife and a child.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Parachutist Leaps To Death”, July 6, 1909 

     Hartford Courant,(Conn.) , “Parachute Jumper Falls To His death”

 

Casco Bay, ME – July 4, 1887

Casco Bay, Maine – July 4, 1887

 

     At 5 p.m. on July 4, 1887, the balloon “Columbia” made an ascension from Lincoln Park in Portland, Maine, with two men aboard: the pilot, Professor Charles H. Grimby, (or possibly Grimsby), and an unnamed passenger who was a reporter for the Boston Globe newspaper.   

     When the Columbia was fifty feet in the air it was caught by a strong wind and pushed into some telegraph and telephone wires briefly becoming entangled before breaking free.  It then climbed to 3,000 feet where it began drifting eastward towards the waters of Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  To be blown out to sea would have meant certain death, so Professor Grimby opened the valve to the balloon hoping to land on one of the islands in the bay.  As the balloon began to drop he threw out a long drag rope to slow their speed.  The rope whipped and snapped through the water but did little to halt their progress. 

     The balloon then reportedly began crossing over “Windward Island” where a some men made an attempt to grab hold if it, but they were pulled to the ground and dragged along with it and were forced to let go.  (It should be noted here that contemporary maps do not list a Windward Island for Casco Bay, and it’s possible the island mentioned was actually Cushing, or Peaks Island.)

     Finally the  drag rope became snagged on a grouping of rocks which briefly stopped the balloon and held it, but the strong wind kept rocking the balloon and before long the rope broke and the Columbia continued on out over the water.  Finally enough gas had been released through the open valve to cause it to plunge into the water.  The gondola, with the men inside, was almost completely submerged as fierce winds continued to buffet the balloon and push it across the bay while both men held on for their lives.

     By this time the men were well away from shore and without life jackets.  Fortunately their plight was seen by those aboard the yacht Mermaid, and the boat gave chase.  The Mermaid eventually caught up to the balloon and managed to rescue both men.  The balloon was not recovered. 

     Professor Grimby told the press it was the most exciting and dangerous trip he had ever made.

     Source: The Worthington Advance, (Worthington, Minn.) July 28, 1887

 

    

Portland Maine Municipal Airport

Portland, Maine Municipal Airport

Click on image to enlarge.

 

Post Card View Of Portland, Maine,  Municipal Airport

Post Card View Of Portland, Maine,
Municipal Airport

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