West Greenwich – March 24, 1943

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – March 24, 1943

P-47B Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47B Thunderbolt

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 24, 1943, two Army P-47B fighter aircraft (41-6002) and (41-6040) were training over southern Rhode Island when both were forced to land for reasons not stated in the press. One plane, piloted by Flight Officer Oscar C. Kline, 22, of Barrington, New Jersey, came down on Nooseneck Hill Road in West Greenwich, barely missing an automobile before cartwheeling into the woods lining the east side of the highway.  The plane caught fire but did not explode.  The flames were quickly extinguished by the driver of the vehicle that was almost hit, and some other passers by, using brush-fire pump cans obtained from the nearby home of Richmond’s Chief of Police, John Potter.  Unfortunately Flight Officer Kline died as he was removed from the plane.  

     The second P-47B landed about a mile-and-a-half farther down Nooseneck Hill Road in the town of Richmond, near Dawley Memorial Park.  

     Witnesses told investigators that the two P-47s had circled the area several times with their wheels down before attempting to land. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Plane Crashes Kill 2 Pilots – Officials Of Army, Navy Probe Accidents In South County”, March 25, 1943   (This headline is in error.  Only one pilot was killed.)   

Woonsocket Call, “Pilot Identified In State Crackup”, March 25, 1943, Pg. 1 

Springfield Union, (Mass.), “Westover Fighter Pilot Killed, Another Escapes In Two-Plane R.I. Crash”, March 25, 1943

North Central Airport – May 2, 1980

North Central Airport – May 2, 1980

Smithfield, Rhode Island

    

North Central Airport, Smithfield, R. I.  May 2, 1980

North Central Airport, Smithfield, R. I.
May 2, 1980

On May 2, 1980, a 59-year-old man was landing his aircraft, a Piper Tomahawk, at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island, while another Piper Tomahawk was sitting on or near the runway with two men inside.   The incoming plane clipped the second with its wingtip, flipping it over and tearing off the tail section, completely demolishing the aircraft.   Fortunately both men inside were able to climb out on their own and there was no fire.  The incoming plane sustained only minor damage.

     All three men were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.  

     An official from the Department of transportation believed the crash might have been avoided if North Central had a manned control tower – which it does not. 

North Central Airport  Smithfield, R.I. May 2, 1980

North Central Airport
Smithfield, R.I.
May 2, 1980

North Central Airport Smithfield, R.I. May 2, 1980

North Central Airport
Smithfield, R.I.
May 2, 1980

 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “2 Light Planes Collide At Area Airport; 3 Hurt”, May 3, 1980

 

Georgiaville, RI – August 5, 1943

The Wolf Hill Plane Crash – Georgiaville, R.I. 
August 5, 1943

By Jim Ignasher

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. - August 5, 1943. U.S. Air Force Photo

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. – August 5, 1943.
U.S. Air Force Photo

      On August 5, 1943, a U.S. Army Air Corps, twin-engine aircraft, crashed on the Georgiaville side of Wolf Hill and three servicemen lost their lives. As with many events, details get forgotten over time. The story is worth re-telling both as an historical event, and as a way to remember the three men who died in the service of this country within the Town of Smithfield.

     The plane was a Lockheed, RB-34. To be more precise, it was an RB-34A-4, Target Tug, one of only 16 produced for this purpose. Its military serial number was 41-38116.

     The B-34 was initially designed as a light coastal patrol bomber to be used in anti-submarine warfare by the British military before the United States had entered World War II. It had its origins in the Lockheed, Model 18, Lodestar, a civil aircraft, which was re-designed and given the military designation of the Hudson MK I. In 1940, the British Government ordered 375 Hudsons. Subsequent orders were placed with technical improvements and modifications to armament, thus giving the planes designations of MK II, MK IIA, and GR.MK V.

     When the United States entered the war in December of 1941, 200 Hudsons destined for England were diverted off the production line for use by the U.S. Army Air Corps and given the new military designation of B-34. The “B” designated it as a bomber aircraft. Most of the B-34s were later converted for use as training aircraft. Of these 200 aircraft, 57 were used as bomber trainers, 28 were used as gunnery trainers, 16 as target tugs, and 13 as navigational trainers. The remaining 86 planes were passed over to the U.S. Navy when it was decided that coastal protection should fall under the Navy’s jurisdiction. The Navy re-designated the planes as PV-1 Ventura’s and from 1942 onwards, all future orders went to the Navy. The Ventura’s were used by both the United States and Britain throughout the war.

     In October of 1942, the planes that remained with the Army were re-designated RB-34’s to indicate their changed operational status as training aircraft, followed by a letter and number designation to indicate its training role. For example, bomber trainers were designated RB-34A-2, gunnery trainers as RB-34A-3, target tugs as RB-34A-4, and navigational trainers as RB-34B.

     The plane that crashed on Wolf Hill was a target tug. Its function was to tow canvas gunnery targets a safe distance behind it, usually over open water, where fighter pilots would take turns making “runs” at it with their aircraft. The fighter pilots would shoot paint-coated ammunition, with each pilot given a different color, so that afterwards, when the target was evaluated, one could see which pilots had done well and which hadn’t.portewig

     According to the now de-classified official Army Air Corps accident investigation report obtained from the government, on the date of the accident, the plane was being ferried from Westover Field in Massachusetts to Otis Air Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The flight plan filed by the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, stated that take-off time would be 16:00 hours, (4 p.m.), and the flight would take 45 minutes passing over Rhode Island en-route.

     Flying conditions for that day were good. There was a 3000 foot ceiling of broken clouds, with scattered clouds at 1600 feet. Visibility was unrestricted, and winds were out of the north-north-west at 8 to 12 miles per hour.

     The plane was given enough fuel for four hours of flight time. While passing over Scituate, Rhode Island a mechanical problem developed with the right engine.

     Several witnesses gave statements to Army investigators charged with determining the cause of the accident. The following quotes are taken from the official U.S. Army crash investigation report.

     One witness was Robert Swan of North Scituate, who was tending to his garden when the plane passed overhead. He told investigators; “I was attracted by a sputtering of airplane engines coming from a northeasterly direction. I located the plane by sight, which was about a mile from where I was standing. The sputtering was of a back-firing sound, and soon afterwards the motors appeared to have stopped completely. Judging from where I was at, the plane had an altitude of approximately a thousand feet. The plane did not change its course, but seemed to glide in its general heading. It was about two or three minutes from the time I sighted the plane until it went out of view.”

     From there the plane passed near Waterman’s Lake in Smithfield where it was seen by Aashel H. Thorton of Greenville, who recalled; “As I continued to watch the plane, I noticed the right engine had begun to stop. It appeared to me as if the pilot was attempting to start his motor again. I continued to watch the plane until it had gone completely out of sight.”

     Young Daniel Raiche was also at Waterman’s Lake with his mother. His statement said, “My mother and I were on the island at Waterman’s Lake when we heard a plane in the distance. I had a telescope with me so I picked him up when he was some distance away. Just as he was pretty nearly overhead I observed brown streaks of smoke coming from the motors and soon after we heard a sound like backfire. The motors went dead and the ship glided for awhile; the plane sounded like it was going to start up again but the motor went dead. The plane continued to glide in the direction of Greenville; then it banked to the left losing altitude. I watched through the telescope until the plane flew behind a hill. We then packed our stuff in the boat and jumped in the rowboat and rowed to shore. When we arrive(d) there we could see smoke coming from the plane and we knew it had crashed.”

     Daniel arrived home at about 5:30 p.m. and told his father what he had seen. His father directed him to write it all down right away and later forwarded the report to the Army.

     From his home on Coolridge Avenue in Greenville, Francis Kane also saw the plane pass overhead. He reported, “The plane seemed to be gliding, because the left engine was not running, and the right engine was just sputtering. When I first saw the plane it had an approximate altitude of 500 ft. and was loosing altitude all the time.” Mr. Kane was also a volunteer fireman from Greenville and a few minutes later he responded to the crash site.

     Walter Caine and Charles Young watched the plane from the Spragueville section of town. Mr. Caine stated; “The plane appeared to be at a very low altitude just skimming the tops of the trees. I only saw the plane for about a minute and then I lost sight of it. I immediately noticed a pillar of smoke coming from the direction of which the plane was heading. I immediately went to the scene of the crash. When I got there the plane was completely enveloped in flame. Some other men and myself located two bodies from the plane.”

     Mr. Young, a Smithfield police officer, related a similar recollection; “The plane was at tree top level most of the time. As soon as I lost sight of the plane I saw a pillar of smoke coming about three quarters of a mile distance from where I was. I immediately went to the location of where the plane had crashed. The plane was completely engulfed in flames. I found the body of a person about fifty or sixty feet from the fuselage of the plane. I then saw another body which was located about ten feet on the opposite side of the main part of the fuselage.”

     From the other side of Wolf Hill, Corporal John J. Corte of Hill Street also saw the aircraft. In his statement he recalled; “At approximately 4:30 P.M., I was attracted by a B-34 airplane which was in a glide at a very low altitude. The motors of the plane were not running from the time I first sighted it until it went out of view, which was about 5 or 10 minutes. The plane appeared to circle in search of an open field. The plane circled twice and then finally went into a right bank and out of view. A large cloud of smoke came up from the general area in which the plane was last sighted. I immediately went to the scene as a member of the local fire department. When I arrived, I noticed that the right wing had hit into the ground and the plane was completely engulfed in flame.”

     According to a Providence Journal newspaper article which appeared August 6, 1943, on page 1, witnesses reported that, “the plane appeared to be operating on one motor and was circling in search of a landing place.”

     A news item which appeared on the front page of the Pawtucket Times on August 6, 1943, stated that, “Eye-witnesses said the ship first started to spit fire in midair, burst into flame, then crashed with an explosion which set the surrounding woods afire.” 

      The crash site, according to the Providence Journal, reportedly occurred on a rocky ledge on Wolf Hill, about a mile west of Farnum Pike, and about a mile and a half south from the old Smithfield Airport, which was then located where Bryant University is today. The debris field was supposedly spread over an area 50 yards long and 20 yards wide, “with the body of the plane having come to rest on a huge rock”.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

     One of the first to reach the scene was Fred Andrews, the owner of a farm located near present day Farnum Pike and Route 295. The Providence Journal article reported that Mr. Andrews had said that a “heavy explosion followed the crash”, followed by a “second heavy detonation, and several lighter ones.” When he reached the scene everything was on fire. Mr. Andrews’ wife later recalled that the explosions “shook the ground like an earthquake.”

     The explosions and column of black smoke from the fire attracted curious spectators from the surrounding area. A call was placed to the volunteer fire department and crews from Georgiaville and Greenville responded. Once they arrived, they found they couldn’t get near the scene with their engines, so they had to walk in with portable pump cans and shovels to attack the fire.

     Officers of the Smithfield Police, led by Chief Albert N. Lacroix rushed to the scene with first aid equipment. State Troopers from Chepachet and Lincoln also arrived, as well as members of the state forest fire patrol. When word reached St. Michaels Church in Georgiaville, Reverend James H. Beattie went to the scene to administer last rites to the deceased.

     Barbara True Gregor, formerly of Greenville wrote in May of 2004; “I was only eleven years old then; my sisters were thirteen and fourteen. The sight we beheld that day left an indelible impression on our minds. When we arrived, the Army plane had been quickly doused with water by volunteer firefighters, most of whom were teenagers. The boys and men of our town who would normally be on call, were overseas fighting in World War II.”

     “There were three soldiers who died in that fiery crash but only one stands out in my mind all these years later. His charred body was outside the plane, and he died in a crawling position trying to escape the flames. I remember vividly that he wore a metal wristwatch on his outstretched arm.”

     Teresa (Beausejour) Beaudoin, who was 14 at the time of the crash, recalled a similar expierence in September, 2005. “One day during that summer when I should have been cleaning my room, I took time out to look out the window. Suddenly, I heard the high pitched screaming sound of a plane, nose diving toward the earth. Then a crashing sound.

     Curiously, I ran toward the area of the crash, which seemed to be close by. I arrived at the same time as the Georgiaville Fire Department, so I followed the fire fighters carrying water tanks on their backs, into the wooded area behind Fred Andrew’s house, also on Farnum Pike.

     At the site, I observed, a soup bowl shaped area, about thirty or forty feet in diameter and about six feet deep (in a child’s eye). Halfway up the incline, was the motionless figure of a person attempting to crawl out of the hole. He was about halfway up, on his knees, with one hand on the ground reaching and grasping for something to help him out.

     His clothes were completely black, but neither he nor his clothes were on fire. He resembled a statue of coal. I knew instantly he was dead.”

     Other’s who were at the scene that day, have also described how two of the bodies were found in “a crawling position” outside the wreckage. Based on this information, it’s possible that two of the men aboard survived the initial crash and were killed by the subsequent explosions that followed.

A detail of Army troops arrived and quickly roped off the area and took over the scene, forcing everyone to evacuate the area. Once the fire was out, according to a retired firefighter who remembered the incident, “Nobody except Army personnel were allowed back up to the site.”

     Blocking off the crash scene was, and still is, common practice for a number of reasons. Afterwards, very little information about the crash was released by the Army, and with the war in full swing, it quickly became old news as far as the press was concerned as there were no follow-up articles about the incident in any of the newspapers.

     This later led to speculation and rumors by townspeople that there was more to the story. Some claimed the plane was overloaded with bombs and that was the reason for the crash. Others said it was on a secret mission and that was the true reason everyone was kept away. One rumor went that the plane was testing secret experimental radar jamming equipment. All of these rumors were false, but they persisted for many years.

     Army officials probed the crash site for clues to the disaster. Captains Joseph T. Klemovich and Howard A. Tuman, along with First Lieutenant Charles B. Gracey Jr., are listed in the accident investigation report as the three men assigned to investigate the crash. They were pilots assigned to the 58th Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force, then training at Green Field to go overseas. (Green Field is known today as T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.) The fighter group was transferred overseas shortly afterward.

     Lieutenant Gracey arrived at the scene several hours after the crash. In his report dated August 19, 1943, he wrote, “Judging from the position of the parts of the ship I feel certain that the ship struck the ground with its right wing first, for the right wing was very badly damaged and lay a hundred (100) feet to the rear of the main part of the wreckage.”

     Lieutenant Gracey was killed a few months later on a mission in New Guniea.

     Captain Klemovich retired a Colonel in the Air Force and passed away in 1984.

     Captain Tuman also retired a Colonel in command of the 310th Squadron of the 58th Fighter Group. On June 17, 2003, he related from his home in Oregon that he and the other investigators were 21 and 22 years old at the time training to be fighter pilots at Green Field in preparation for overseas duty. He didn’t remember many details about the investigation but related that the transfer of troops and personnel happened fast and was common during the war. He added that stateside military aircraft crashes unfortunately happened all too often. There simply wasn’t the time or the resources to conduct long-term investigations as would happen today.

     The three investigators, in their final report, dated August 19, 1943, stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering all the statements of the witnesses, decided the right engine failed in flight. The pilot having insufficient altitude to recover properly, crashed on a wooded hill.” The report further stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering the statement of Capt. Victor K. Wagner, Maintenance Officer, 331st Sub-depot, Bradley Field, Conn., feels the accident was due largely to faulty maintenance.” Under “recommendations”, the report suggested, “a more thorough supervision of maintenance personnel.” and, “consistent practice in one engine procedure for pilots.”

     All three men on board the RB-34 died in the crash.

     There was the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, age 27, of Richmond, Virginia. A native of Richmond, he graduated from John Marshall High School, and went on to Roanoke College where he specialized in Aviation. He learned to fly at Central Airport and later became an instructor there. On one occasion he won first place in a spot landing contest He was also a flight instructor at Byrd and Hermitage Airports in Richmond, as well as an instructor at the Lynchburg Aviation School, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

     He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 15, 1942, at Indianapolis, Indiana, and was commissioned a second lieutenant due to his seven years of flying experience. While in the Army, he was stationed at Judson Barracks, Missouri, the Bel Val Air Base in Austin, Texas, the Alliance Air Base in Nebraska, and at Langley Field in Virginia. He also served as a flight instructor in the Army.

     He was attached to the 3rd Air Force, 1st Air Support Command, 66th Troop Carrier Squadron. In June of 1943, he was transferred from the Troop Carrier Squadron to the 1st Towing Squadron out of Otis Air Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     Lieutenant Portewig was survived by his mother, Maud Portewig, and two brothers, James M., and Edwin, L. Portewig.

Sergeant Herbert D. Booth

Sgt. Herbert D. Booth

     Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth was the crew chief aboard. A native of Rahway, New Jersey, he graduated Rahway High School June 17, 1941. He was also attached to the First Towing Squadron at Otis Air Field. At the time of his death he was 30 days shy of his 22ed birthday. He was survived by his parents, Mr. And Mrs. William D. Booth. (No further information was available at this time about T/S Booth.)

     Then there was 2ed Lieutenant Saul Winsten, age 25, from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He was assigned to the 901st Quartermasters Company, Aviation Service.

     He graduated from Pawtucket High School and attended Rhode Island State College before entering Brown University School of Law. He worked his way through college and law school by working at the university and at Saltzman’s in Pawtucket. He graduated law school in June 1941, and shortly thereafter, passed both the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Bar Exams getting high marks on each. Two months later, he entered the Army on January 17, 1942, and was accepted to Officer’s Candidate School for the Quartermasters Service at Camp Lee, Virginia.

     He was survived by his mother Leah Winsten, and two brothers who were also serving in the military, Cpl. Harold Winsten, Quartermasters Service, and Joseph Winsten, a medical student at the Navy’s V-12 College Program at Brown University.

     Lieutenant Winsten normally would not have been on the plane. On that day, he was at Westover Field and needed to get to Otis Field. At that time, there was no interstate highway system, and with a war on, and gas rationing, the trip by automobile would have taken about 4 hours. Therefore, it was a common practice to check at the airfield operations center to see if a plane was heading in the direction one needed to go. With a flight scheduled for Otis, he naturally opted to fly instead of drive.

     The Army, as was the custom, cleaned up the crash site and removed most of the plane. The word “most” is accurate because according to some who visited the site in later years, small pieces of airplane aluminum, the size of a dollar bill and smaller, remained on the ground. Over the years, souvenir hunters, and Mother Nature, have removed all traces of the plane. If someone were to visit the site today, they would find nothing to indicate that a tragedy had once occurred there.

     Though time and Mother Nature have returned the site to its original condition, we should never forget the names of those who died there while in the service of their country. To that end, three bricks bearing the names of Lieutenant Saul Winsten, Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, and Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth were added to the Veterans Memorial in Deerfield Park in 2004.

memorial bricks

Bricks at the Smithfield Veterans Memorial at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

    In August & October of 2009, two separate memorials were dedicated to the three servicemen who lost their lives in the Wolf Hill plane crash. One was placed in Deerfield Park in the Greenville section of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the second was placed at the crash site in Gerogiaville. 

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash Aug. 5, 1943, Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash on Wolf Hill, Georgiaville, R.I., Aug. 5, 1943. (Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.)

 

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Saul Winsten's brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park  ceremony.

Saul Winsten’s brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park ceremony.

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. - August 2009

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. – August 2009

Off Block Island, R.I. – December 30, 1943

Off Block Island, Rhode Island – December 30, 1943

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the night of December 30, 1943, a flight of F6F-3 Hellcat aircraft assigned to VF(n)-76, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a night training flight.  The night was clear, but there was no moon.

     One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 65930), piloted by Ensign Waldo E. Neuburg, was assigned to orbit the northern end of Block Island, which lies three miles off shore from Rhode Island.  About thirty minutes into the flight, Neuburg’s aircraft began having engine trouble.  He notified the flight leader, who advised him to return to Quonset Point.  Neuburg  put the plane into a climb and headed for shore, but a short time later radioed that he wasn’t going to make it and that he was bailing out.  Fifteen seconds later his aircraft disappeared from the Jamestown (R.I.) radar station’s tracking scope somewhere NNE of Block Island.   A search and rescue operation was instituted, but no trace of Ensign Neuburg or his airplane was ever found. 

     Source:

      U.S. Navy Accident report #44-10567

Narragansett Bay – May 25, 1913

Narragansett Bay – May 25, 1913

 

    early biplane On May 25, 1913, a Providence baseball team was playing against another team from Jersey City, New Jersey, at a baseball field that overlooked Narragansett Bay.  Part of the post-game festivities included a flight exhibition given by aviator Harry M. Jones, who was locally famous for being the first to fly mail from Boston to New York.  

     Just after 5:00 p.m., his bi-plane was maneuvered to the area of first base in preparation for take off.  As “cargo” Jones was taking along a box of baseballs, which he planned to drop from the air to players on the field. 

     From the start Jones seemed to be having trouble getting the motor to start and keep running, but after several attempts he was successful, and took off in view of several thousand spectators.  After circling the field a few times at an altitude of 50 feet, he began getting ready to  drop the baseballs when the engine suddenly quit.  As the plane began loosing altitude, Jones tried to restart the motor but couldn’t.  His glide path was taking him directly towards the huge crowd of people on the ground who at that point were beginning to scatter in all directions.  Fortunately Jones had just enough altitude to swing the aircraft towards Narragansett Bay, where he crashed into the water and sank with his plane.  Several seconds later he bobbed to the surface, shaken and bruised, but otherwise unhurt. 

     It took four hours to recover the plane from the water.   

     Jones was involved in a more serious crash in Narragansett, Rhode Island on August 9, 1914.  For more details, see Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents on this website.         

     Source: The Providence Journal, “Jones, In Biplane, Plunges Into Bay”, May 26, 1913.  (Article supplied by Patricia Zacks.)      

    

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

    

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker
Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

     In 1955 the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Leyte was stationed at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  In early December of that year, she put to sea for a three day cruise off New England to participate in anti-submarine training maneuvers.  Navy pilot, Lieutenant (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker, 23, of Akron, Ohio, volunteered to go. 

     On December 7, Lieutenant Walker, piloting an AD Skyraider, participated in a gunnery training flight over the water.  As he was returning to the Leyte, the arresting cable snapped when it caught the Skyraider’s tail hook.  The aircraft careened into the carrier’s superstructure and then cartwheeled into the sea.     

     The Skyraider quickly sank  to the bottom taking Lt. Walker with it, but his back-seat crewman, Aviation Ordinance Man 2nd Class William E. Deering of Atlantic City, New Jersey, managed to escape. 

     One of those who witnessed the accident was Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class David Cata of the Bronx, New York, who was stationed aboard the nearby destroyer, U.S.S. Wadleigh.   Upon seeing Deering bobbing helplessly in the water, Cata jumped overboard and swam to his aid and held Deering afloat until they were plucked form the water by a helicopter.  Both men survived their ordeal.

     Lieutenant (J.g.) Walker was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on December 3, 1953.  His body was never recovered.

     Some sources describing this event state that it took place in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, however, the Ohio Informer, a newspaper from Akron, Ohio, where Lt. Walker was from, gave the location as 90 miles out to sea off the coast of New Jersey. 

     Sources:  

     New York Times, “Sailor Rescued Airman”, December 9, 1955     

     Bridgeport Telegram, “Sailor Rescues Airman In Water”, December 9, 1955  

     Ohio Informer, “Lt. Alfred G. Walker Dies In Plane Crash”, December 17, 1955, Vol. X, No. 16    

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 24, 1966

Quonset Point Naval Air Station  – May 24, 1966

     On the night of May 24, 1966, Lieut. Cmdr. Bruce R. Richmond, 31, and Lieut. Stephen Losey, 37, were practicing landings and take offs at Quonset Point Naval Air Station when their twin-engine aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay.  Both men were killed. The type of aircraft was not stated.

     Lieut. Cmdr. Richmond is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.  To see a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com memorial #3427105.

     Lieut. Losey is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com memorial #49249517.   He was from New Jersey.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Two Navy Fliers Die In Crash”, May 25, 1966

     www.findagrave.com

Conimicut Light, Warwick, R.I. – July 30, 1964

Conimicut Light, Warwick, Rhode Island – July 30, 1964

    

U-10 Helio Courier U.S. Air Force Photo

U-10 Helio Courier
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of July 30, 1964, a flight of six Rhode Island National Guard Aircraft left Hillsgrove Airport, (Today known as T.F. Green Airport) for a two-and-a-half hour training flight.  The aircraft belonged to the 143rd Air Commando Group. 

     One of the aircraft, a U-10 Helio Courier with two men aboard developed engine trouble and attempted an emergency landing.  As the plane neared the Conimicut Lighthouse at Conimicut Point in Warwick, one witness said he could hear the engine “spitting and sputtering” as it crashed into the shallow water of Narragansett Bay between the lighthouse and the mainland.

     Both the pilot and navigator were killed.  The dead were identified as (Pilot) Captain Donald E. Leach, 31, of Cranston, R.I., and (Navigator) Major Alan Hall Jr., 39, of East Greenwich, R.I.      

     The aircraft was recovered the following day with the bodies of both men still inside.

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “2 RI Airmen Killed In Bay Plane Crash”, July 31, 1964, Pg. 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Recover Bodies Of 2 Guardsmen”, August 1, 1964 

Smithfield, R.I. – November 17, 2008

Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 17, 2008

     On the evening of November 17, 2008, a Piper PA-38, (N2316P) was approaching runway 33 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, when it crashed in a wooded area about 2/3 of a mile short of the runway.  The plane exploded on impact killing both the pilot and his passenger.

     The dead were identified as (Pilot) Robert A. Zoglio Jr., 43, of Richmond, R.I., and Ronald Tetreault, 64, of Glocester, R.I.   

     The plane had left Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I. bound for North Central to practice landings and take-offs.    

     Sources:

     NSTB Report #ERA09FA060

     Providence Journal, “Two Killed In Plane Crash In Smithfield”, November 18, 2008, Section B, Pg. B1

     Providence Journal, “Experienced pilots died doing what they loved”, November 19, 2008, Pg. 1

    

 

The Lockheed Learstar Disaster – December 15, 1958

THE LOCKHEED LEARSTAR DISASTER

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – December 15, 1958

      One of Rhode Island’s worst civil aviation crashes occurred in the town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island during a snowstorm which claimed the lives of seven people. 

     At about 8:30 a.m., on December 15, 1958, a twin engine, Lockheed, Learstar, (Registration N37500) owned by the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Company took off from Linden, New Jersey, bound for Logan Airport in Boston.  The plane carried five passengers, all top executives for Johnson & Johnson, and a crew of two. 

     From Boston, the executives were to go on to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the company operated its LePage Glue Division.  While en-route to Boston the plane ran into an unexpected snowstorm and was diverted by Logan officials to land in Beverly, Massachusetts.  When the aircraft arrived at Beverly, the crew was informed that they too were closed due to weather.  With no other option, the pilot set a course southward back to New Jersey.

     As the plane passed over the town of Franklin, Massachusetts, a town just to the north of the Rhode Island border, the pilot reported that one of the engines had died. This was the last radio transmission ever heard from the aircraft. 

     The plane continued south and passed over the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts, where  a man living on Pond Street later reported that he heard a plane overhead with an engine sputtering.

      The aircraft then passed over the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and then North Smithfield. The nearest airport at this point would have been North Central State Airport in Smithfield, about four miles away, and it was later speculated that the crew was attempting to reach the airport when the plane went down. 

     Although it was equipped with radar, the plane was flying in heavy snow, and the cloud ceiling was a mere 400 feet.  The pilots were in effect, “flying blind”, relying on instruments to get them to safe haven.   

      At 9:45, the Learstar plunged nose first into a swampy wooded area between Farnum Pike, (Route 104)  and Douglas Pike, (Route 7) below the old New Haven Rail Road tracks, about half a mile in from the road, and three-and-a-half miles short of the runway at North Central Airport. 

     A woman living on Slatersville Road heard the crash and called North Smithfield’s, Chief of Police, Joseph Freitas, to report that she thought a plane had crashed. 

     As a ground search got underway, a National Guard aircraft began searching overhead, and within a few minutes the wreckage was spotted, and the Guard plane began to circle to draw ground searchers to the site. 

     Chief Freitas was one of the first to reach the scene where he found one man still alive, lying with his lower extremities in a pool of icy water mixed with aviation fuel.  Rescue workers carefully pulled him free and laid him on dry land where he died shortly thereafter. 

     The cockpit containing the pilot and co-pilot had buried itself in the soft mud and was submerged under gasoline soaked water.  Firemen found four other bodies in the crumpled passenger compartment. The Reverend Thomas I. Myrick, pastor of Saint John’s Church in Slatersville, was on hand to administer last rites.  It took until 7:30 p.m. to recover the bodies of the crew. 

     The dead were identified as:

     The pilot, Alexander Sable of Metuchen, N.J.

     The co-pilot, Edward Luidcinaitis of Roselle, N.J..  

     Nelson A. Bergstend, age 45, of Linden, N.J.

     Ferdinand Liot, age 39, of Franklin Park, N.J.

     Stephen Baksal, age 44, of Scotch Plain, N.J.

     Raymond Buese, age 31, of South River, N.J.  

     Jesse Hackney, of Pleasentville, N.J. 

     Mr. Bergstend was wearing a broken wristwatch that stopped at 9:45.      

     Investigators later determined that the cause of the crash was ice formation in the carburetors of the engines. It was said that carburetor icing was a fairly common danger in a plane of this type.  Investigators believed the first engine failed due to icing, and the second failed afterward for the same reason. 

      This accident served as a lesson for all big business corporations when it came to transportation of top executives – not to transport everyone together in the same aircraft.  This way, if an accident did occur, the entire top management staff isn’t lost.  Today, many corporations fly top executives on separate flights for this reason.

     The area where the accident occurred is now occupied by a sand and gravel company. 

 Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Crippled Plane Sought In Area”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “…Engine Failure Seen”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call,  “Investigators Seek Crash Solution”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Routine Flight Gives Hill Man 1st Crash View”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Air Crash Story Wrapped Up By Call While Presses Roll”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Carburetor Icing Seen Crash Cause”, December 1958

Providence Journal, “Pilot Cleared In Woon. Crash”, October 8, 1960, Pg. 5

Providence Journal, “Icing ‘Probable’ Cause of crash Which Killed 7”, February 20, 1961, Pg, 27

 

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    

Providence, R.I. – July 16, 1892

Providence, Rhode Island – July 16, 1892 

    

Old Postcard View Of The Providence Armory  And Dexter Training Field - Providence, R.I.

Old Postcard View Of The Providence Armory
And Dexter Training Field – Providence, R.I.

     On July 16, 1892, four men took off in a balloon from the Dexter training field located next to the Providence Armory.  The balloon was named Royal Sovereign, and belonged to the famous aeronaut “Professor” James K. Allen who was at the controls.  Besides Allen, the balloon also carried his assistant Charles E. Albee, an unidentified reporter from the Providence Journal, and a fourth man, Edward Barnett.    

     Almost as soon as the Royal Sovereign lifted from the ground, it was caught by a strong wind that carried it towards Dexter Street which was lined with trees and houses.  Allen quickly tried to release several bags of ballast to gain altitude, but he couldn’t do it fast enough, and the balloon scrapped the tree tops and crashed into several chimneys as it continued in a southeast direction over Cranston Street and towards Lester Street.  As the craft flew across Lester Street it snagged several telephone and electrical wires tearing them free from the poles.  When it did so, Allen was pitched from the controls and tossed to the street where he suffered a broken leg, a fractured knee, and multiple bumps and bruises.  What may have saved is life is the fact that held fast to the emergency release rope which tore open the side of the balloon as he fell possibly slowing his descent. 

     As the gas escaped, the balloon fell rapidly and crashed into a barn about fifty yards from where Allen lay in the street.  The impact threw the other three men from the gondola, but their injuries were not life threatening.  

     Allen was taken to his home in an ambulance where doctors set his leg. 

     Source:

     New York Times, “Another Balloon Accident” July 17, 1892

South Kingstown, R.I. – November 26, 1945

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – November 26, 1945

Worden’s Pond

   

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 26, 1945, Ensign Nelson Earl Carter, 22, was killed when the SB2C Helldiver (Bu. No. 65286) that he was piloting, crashed in Worden’s Pond during dive bombing practice.

     Ensign Carter’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Holland, Michigan for burial.  He’s buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Plot PH3-C-74-4.  For a photo of the grave, go to findagrave.com, Memorial # 49817091.    

     Ensign Carter had been a recipient of the Air Medal. 

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Archaeologist & Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com

Smithfield, R. I. – March 8, 1990

Smithfield, Rhode Island – March 8, 1990

      On the afternoon of March 8, 1990, five friends from Providence College met at North Central State Airport in Smithfield to go flying.  One of the group, Scott H. Lyons, 20, had a pilots license, and had been certified the day before for carrying passengers.  

     Lyons rented a two-seat Piper Tomahawk (N2603G) and took off around 1:00 p.m. with one passenger, his college roommate, Gregory D. Aucoin, 20, while the other three members of their group waited at the airport for their turn. 

     Shortly after takeoff, when the plane was about five miles from the airport, the engine began to sputter.  Two Smithfield Highway Department workers cutting brush in the area heard the sputtering and witnessed the plane go down. 

     The plane crashed in a wooded area of the Judson Farm at the end of Williams Road.  It didn’t burn on impact, but both men aboard were killed.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Plane Goes Down In Smithfield Woods”, March 9, 1990 Pg. 1A

     Providence Journal, “PC Students’ Flight Ended Lives Full Of Promise”, March 10, 1990, Pg. A1

     Journal Bulletin, “PC Roommates Die In Airplane Crash”, March 10, 1990, Pg. A1

Narragansett, R.I. – November 9, 1945

Narragansett, Rhode Island – November 9, 1945    

 

F4U Corsair National Archives Photo

F4U Corsair
National Archives Photo

     On November 9, 1945, Ensign William Edward Andrews, 23, was killed when the F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81327) he was piloting crashed on farm land off Boston Post Road in the town of Narragansett.  Further details of the accident are not available.

     Ensign Andrews was assigned to Fighter Squadron 81. (VF-81)

     His body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Georgia for burial.  He’s buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. 

     To see a photo of Ensign Andrews, go to Findagrave.com, Memorial #30436265.     

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #45-105   

Smithfield, R.I. – November 6, 1988

Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 6, 1988

     On November 6, 1988, a Cessna 152 II, (N5462B), carrying two people crashed in a field on Mann School Road in Smithfield killing both.  Shortly before the crash, the plane was seen making several low passes over the passenger’s home. 

     The dead were identified as (pilot) Harrison G. Chapman, 37, of Key Largo Florida, and (passenger) Lauren A. Sullivan, 35, of Smithfield. 

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Two Killed In “Pleasure Ride” Out Of North Central Airport”, November 7, 1988  

     NTSB report brief #NYC89FA021, microfiche # 39456

 

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

     On the night of June 24, 1944, the body of navy Lieutenant Edward Roy Sladek, 22, was found by the Coast Guard at Shagwong Point, in the town of Montauk, (Long Island) New York.  He had been missing since April 1st, when the aircraft he was aboard went down in the water off Block Island, R.I. 

     According to one news report, Sladek was one of “five or six” men aboard that aircraft when it crashed.    The unidentified plane was out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station in R.I.

     Sources:

     The East Hampton Star, “Navy Flyer Found”, June 29, 1944, Pg.4 

     Rhode Island Department Of Health death certificate

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Updated August 21, 2017

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On July 12. 1945, five navy fighter aircraft from Groton (Ct.) Naval Air Station were participating in a dive-bombing training flight over Little Narragansett Bay on the Connecticut/Rhode Island state line. All planes were scheduled to make eight runs at the target.  The first seven runs were completed without incident.  As the flight of aircraft were making their eighth run, Lt. (Jg.) Frankilton Nehemiah Johnson, 23, piloting an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81435), made his dive on the target from 8,000 feet and leveled off at 80 feet at the completion of his run.  It was at this time that his aircraft was seen to suddenly nose over and crash into the water of Little Narragansett Bay about 140 feet from shore.  The plane exploded on impact and he was killed.       

     Little Narragansett Bay is a body of water located on the Rhode Island/Connecticut state line where the towns of Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Ct. meet.  

     Johnson’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent home to New Orleans, La., for burial.  He’s buried in Garden of Memories, Metairie, Louisiana. (see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #119852076)   

     Lt. (Jg.) Johnson was assigned to Air Squadron 19, aboard the USS Lexington.   

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-64

     National Archives, AAR 21-45, TD450712RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.findagrave.com

North Smithfield, R.I. – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of six U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from the Yale-Harvard football game in Connecticut when one aircraft unexpectedly ran out of fuel.  The pilot, Lieutenant Robert L. O’Brien, made a forced landing on a farm in North Smithfield.  Although the aircraft suffered damage in the landing, O’Brien, and his passenger, Robert Wise, of Boston, were unhurt.  

     The aircraft was a Consolidated PT-1 biplane, tail number 26-319.  The PT-1 was a primary trainer used by the U.S. Army.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Snow Forces Planes Down”, November 26, 1928 

     www.accident_report.com

Little Compton, R.I. – July 6, 1945

Little Compton, Rhode Island – July 6, 1945

     On July 6, 1945, navy Lieutenant Nelson Eugene Wiggins, 29, was killed when the SNJ-3 trainer aircraft he was piloting crashed in Little Compton.  No further details are available.     

     Lt. Wiggins’ body was brought to Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Sulphur, Oklahoma, for burial.  He’s buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.   A photo of his grave is on Findagrave.com, Memorial # 38305859.

Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-62

    

Off Point Judith, R.I. – July 16, 1943

15 Miles Off Point Judith, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943

    Updated March 9, 2018         

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On July 16, 1943, a division of navy F6F-3 Hellcats were engaged in a “Fighter Director Practice” off southern Rhode Island when an army P-47 Thunderbolt made two passes at the group.  Both passes were made from out of the sun, and each time the P-47 came within 50 to 200 yards of the division of Hellcats. 

     According to the U.S. Navy accident report, (#44-7667), “Immediately following the second pass, Ensign Staab entered a high speed stall from an abrupt climbing turn, resulting in a vertical dive and progressive stall.”  Ensign Staab, age 23, was killed when his Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25848), then dove into the Atlantic Ocean 15 miles off Point Judith, R.I.

     Ensign Staab was assigned to Fighting Squadron 31, (VF0-31).

     His hometown is listed as Burlington, Vermont.  He’s buried in Kingston, New York.

     The army P-47 was from the 326th Fighter Group at Westover Field.  There is a notation in the report that the pilot was disciplined however, he is not identified.  

     Sources:

     Rhode Island Department Of Health, death certificate.

     U.S. Navy Accident Report, #44-7667, dated July 16, 1943

Richmond, R. I. – March 16, 1944

Richmond, Rhode Island – March 16, 1944

Updated June 28, 2017

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     At approximately 7:40 p.m. on the night of March 16, 1944, Ensign Herbert Leslie Woods, 22, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air station In Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night training flight.  The weather that evening was cloudy, with a 500 to 600 foot cloud ceiling, and poor visibility of less than a mile.

     Ensign Woods was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41008).

     Ensign Woods was last seen entering the clouds by those in the control tower.  At 7:46 p.m., an emergency IFF signal was received by the tower.  The signal lasted approximately three minutes before it stopped.  Afterwards Ensign Woods could not be contacted.

     The following morning the wreckage of Ensign Woods’s Hellcat was found next to a stream in a wooded area of the village of Kenyon, which is located within the town of Richmond, Rhode Island.  The plane hat crashed at high speed and Woods had been killed instantly.

     At the time of his death, Ensign Woods was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 79, VF(n)-79.  

     Ensign Woods was from Springfield, Illinois.  He’s buried in Camp Butler National Cemetery in Section 3, Site 809.  One can see a photo of his grave at the Camp Butler National Cemetery, site search, www.Findagrave.com, Memorial #2562708     

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Crash Report #44-12450 

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Larry Webster – Aviation Archaeologist and Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.Findagrave.com

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.)   

  

Exeter/West Greenwich, R.I. – June 24, 1953

Exeter/West Greenwich, Rhode Island – June 24, 1953  

Updated October, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,  (Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71 This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes  on the night of June 24, 1953.

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,
(Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71
This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes
on the night of June 24, 1953.

     On June 24, 1953, a flight of U.S. Navy F2H Banshee jets out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were on a night training mission over southern Rhode Island when two aircraft in the formation collided in mid-air.  The resulting flash and explosion was seen for miles by those on the ground.   

     The crash occurred at 19,000 feet near (over) the Exeter/West Greenwich town lines, and debris was scattered for several miles in all directions, most of it coming down in woodlands, but some of it on public roadways.      

     A large portion of one Banshee, (Bu. No. 126384) piloted by Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, 24, came down in Robin Hollow Pond, off Robin Hollow Road, in West Greenwich.  It was later recovered by the navy.

     It is believed Lt. Snipes was killed instantly in the collision.  The nose portion of the his aircraft up to the cockpit was torn away by the impact, and Snipes fell away still strapped to his ejection seat.   His body was later recovered still in the seat in a wooded area off Breakheart Hill Road in West Greenwich.

     The main portion of the other Banshee, (Bu. No. 126411) piloted by Lt. Jg. James J. Schollian, 23, came down in an area off  Austin Farm Road in the town of Exeter.  Schollian was able to successfully eject from his aircraft, and parachuted safely.    

     At the moment of impact Lieutenant Schollian’s cockpit was illuminated by the intense light of the explosion, and his aircraft was set ablaze.   As Snipes’ plane spun away in a flat spin, Schollian attempted to bail out, but discovered his ejection seat was not working.  Remembering his training, he released his seatbelt and literally floated up and out of his seat, then pushed himself out of the falling jet with his feet.  It took him several more seconds to locate the parachute D-ring, but he finally deployed the chute at about 10,000 feet.

     Hanging in the air, he watched his doomed aircraft continue on its fiery plunge to oblivion.  As he got closer to the ground he saw two cars stopped by the side of a road, and lit a signal flare, but it failed to gain any attention.  Prevailing winds carried him over heavy woodlands where he came crashing down through the treetops.  After assessing himself for injuries, he set out to find a road, but the woods were near pitch-dark, and he didn’t have a compass.  After stumbling around in the dark for awhile he came to a clearing next to a swamp and decided to light a signal fire.  After awhile a circling aircraft spotted the fire and led him out of the woods where he was found about three miles west of Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich.        

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes  aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)  National Archives Photo

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes
aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
National Archives Photo

      The flash of the mid-air collision was seen by those in the air-traffic control tower at the Quonset Naval Air Station, and within seconds their worst fears were confirmed as the flight leader contacted the tower.    As crash-rescue personnel were mobilized, hundreds of civilian curiosity seekers converged on the area clogging the roadways which hindered fire fighters battling numerous brush fires started by the falling debris, and search and rescue operations being conducted by the navy.  State and local police did their best to block access to the area, but the throngs of humanity were no match for the comparatively small contingent of law enforcement.   

     The dark night and poor visibility hampered search teams, and authorities had to deal with conflicting reports based on rumor and vague witness accounts.  It is therefore understandable why the following morning local newspapers erroneously reported that both pilots had been found, and that only one had suffered any injury. Unfortunately this was untrue.  While at the time the papers went to press Lieutenant Schollian had been located by searchers, Lieutenant Snipes was still missing. 

     As the sun came up on the morning of the 25th, a contingent of aircraft took off from Quonset NAS to conduct an aerial search of the vast wooded areas of Exeter and West Greenwich.  The search was partially delayed when one of the search aircraft developed engine trouble shortly after take-off and went down in Wickford Harbor.  Fortunately the crew escaped without serious injury, but some of the resources allocated to looking for Lieutenant Snipes had to be diverted to Wickford.  

     (That incident involved an AD Skyraider piloted by Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring.) 

     The body of Lieutenant Snipes was recovered on the morning of the 26th.   A memorial service for him was held the following Monday at the Quonset Chapel, and was attended by his squadron mates. 

     Jack Oliver Snipes was born October 1, 1928 in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Ransom Oliver, and Maude Elizabeth Snipes.  The family later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Jack attended local schools.  He attended North High School in Nashville from 1945-46, before transferring to East High School, also in Nashville.    

      Jack left high school during his senior year, and enlisted in the United States Navy on February 18, 1947.  After basic training in San Diego, California, he was sent to Aviation Fundamental School in in Jacksonville Florida, then on to Aviation/Aerial Photography School in Pensacola, Florida. From there he was assigned to Utility Squadron 10, (VU-10), stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a photographer.       

Ensign Jack O. Snipes
U.S. Navy

    While in the navy, Jack completed his high school studies and received his GED from East High School in 1948.  He later applied for and was accepted to pilot training school.  He began flight training on January 26, 1949 at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, and did extremely well.  After Pensacola, he was sent for advanced training at the naval air station in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was stationed from March thru September of 1950.  On September 20, 1950, he received his officer’s commission as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, as well as his navy pilot’s wings. 

     After being sent to Whiting Field in Florida for more advanced training, Ensign Snipes was assigned to Fighter Squadron 71, (VF-71), and transferred to Quonset Point, R.I., where he reported for duty on November 18, 1950.       

     In January of 1952, VF-71 was assigned to Carrier Group Seven, Atlantic Fleet, to conduct test flights of the Navy’s new F9F-5 Grumman Panther fighter jets equipped with various experimental engines to determine how the different engines would affect the operational performance of the aircraft in simulated combat conditions.   One can see the potential hazards connected with such an assignment.  Testing took place 24/7 under any and all types of weather conditions, because the information to be learned was considered vitally important to the on-going war effort in Korea. This testing period continued until March 1, 1952.

     For his participation in these test flights, Ensign Snipes received a letter of commendation in his navy personnel jacket which stated in part: “The Commanding Officer notes with pride that as a pilot attached to this command during the tests, you bravely and unselfishly participated in hazardous test flying.  Your excellent performance of duty reflected credit to the squadron.”     

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

  On May 14, 1952, VF-71 was transferred to the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard, (CV-31).  During this time period the squadron was flying F9F Panther jets. The Bon Homme Richard sailed into the Korean Theatre of Operations on June 22, 1952.  

     The following day Ensign Snipes participated in a coordinated air strike on a hydro-electric complex in North Korea for which he was later awarded the Air Medal with gold Combat Star.   

     His award citation reads as follows: “For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as a pilot of a jet fighter plane attached to Fighter Squadron Seventy One, during operations against enemy Communist Forces in North Korea on 23 June 1952, Ensign Snipes bravely and skillfully executed two bombing and strafing runs against Fusen number two hydro-electric power plant obtaining hits in the target area.  He inflicted serious damage to the installation in the face of enemy anti-aircraft fire and contributed materially in the complete destruction of this vital plant.  His outstanding courage and skillful airmanship were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service”   

     Between September 22, 1952, and December 12, 1952,  Ensign Snipes flew twenty combat missions over North Korea.

     According to fitness evaluations in Ensign Snipes’ navy personnel file, he was considered an excellent pilot and showed great leadership capabilities. He was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on October 17, 1952.             

     After serving aboard the Bon Homme Richard, VF-71 returned to duty at Quonset Point.  One week before his death Ensign Snipes had visited his sister in Nashville.  He’s buried in the Prospect Free Will Baptist Cemetery in Erwin, North Carolina.   To see photos of his grave, click here: www.findagrave.com

    Lieutenant (Jg.) James Schollian continued to serve in the Navy until his retirement in 1976 at the rank of captain.     

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row. Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.   U.S. Navy Photo - Click To Enlarge

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard
Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row.
Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.
U.S. Navy Photo – Click To Enlarge

     The F2H-3 Banshee was a Cold War era, single-seat fighter jet, designed by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation for the United States Navy. It was a large, well-armed, aircraft, measuring 44’, 10” in length, and 40’, 2” wide, capable of sailing through the sky at over 500 mph.  When fully loaded, it carried slightly more than eleven-hundred gallons of high octane aviation fuel, which could explain the massive fireball created when the collision occurred. 

     The word Banshee comes from Irish and Scottish folklore, and refers to a female spirit who is a harbinger of death.  It is said that banshees can attach themselves to a particular family, and when a member of that clan is about to die, the banshee will begin a melodic sorrowful moan foretelling the impending death.        

 

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee  undergoing restoration  at the Quonset Air Museum.

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee
undergoing restoration
at the Quonset Air Museum.

     In 2011, the Quonset Air Museum of Rhode Island acquired an F2H-3 Banshee in need of restoration.  Restoration was begun, and plans were underway to give it the same paint scheme and markings as the one flown by Lieutenant Snipes as a memorial to him.  Unfortunately, in March of 2015 a portion of the museum’s roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, and the building was closed to the public.  Then, for a variety of reasons, the museum was forced to permanently close in 2017.  Thus the project was never completed.     

     Update, October, 2107: The Quonset Air Museum Banshee has since been sold to a private individual who had the pieces transported to his property where he plans to continue the restoration.    

      The accident scattered debris from both aircraft over a wide area, and due to the rural nature of the towns of Exeter and West Greenwich, some of it was never recovered by the navy.  Over the years pieces have been found in the woods by hunters, hikers, and metal scrapers.       

A center-wing portion of the Quonset Air Museum F2H Banshee under restoration. Now in the possession of a private individual.

     According to a Providence Journal article dated 6-26-53, Navy crews buried the wreckage of Lieutenant Schollian’s Banshee “off Victory Highway where it fell to earth.”  It presumably lies there yet, waiting for the day when future development might bring it to light.  Those who find it may wonder how it came to be there.  Hopefully they will know of this story.     

Sources: 

Providence Journal, “2 Navy Jets Crash: Pilots Found, One badly Hurt”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, ”Searchers Fail To Find Trace of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.

Providence Journal, “Fire Believed Started By Jet Flier Is Under Control After 17 Hours”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 6

Providence Journal, “Body Of Missing Jet Pilot Found”, June 27, 1953.

Woonsocket Call, “Quonset Fliers Safe In Crash In Search For Missing Airman”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Jet Pilot’s Body Found In Woods In W. Greenwich”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 1

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 45

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 46

The Meridian Record Journal, “Pilot Hunted After Two Jets Crash In Air”, June 26, 1953.

Nashville Tennasean, “Nashville Pilot Sought After Mid-Air Crash” June 27, 1953 (Snipe’s mother and sister lived in Nashville at the time.)

Book, United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, by Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers, Funk & Wagnalls, 1968.

The Naval-Aviator Network, Capt. James J. Schollian, (1948-1976)

Information supplied by Lawrence Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian.    

June, 2017 – Copy of Lt. Jg. Snipes’ navy personnel record.

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942 

     At 3:15 p.m. on October 11, 1942, Aviation Radioman Stanley D Overfelt, 25, was killed when the aircraft he was on crashed in Narragansett Bay during dive bombing training.   No further details are available. 

     Mr. Overfelt was from Clarence, Missouri. According to his death certificate, he was assigned to VS-42.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-31

     Update: August 13, 2015.   What may be the same incident is mentioned in a New York Times snippet with no title, dated October 12, 1942, which stated that an airplane believed to have been carrying two men went down in Narragansett Bay.  No names were given.     

     Update: June 19, 2017

     Stanley D. Overfelt is buried in Maple Hills Cemetery, in Kirksville, Missouri.  Source: www.findagrave.com, memorial #59737610 

Sakonnet River, Tiverton, R.I. – September 29, 1942

Sakonnet River, Tiverton, Rhode Island – September 29, 1942

Updated June 19, 2018

 

Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps Photo

     On the morning of September 29, 1942, a U.S. Navy Grumman JF-1 Duck, (Bu. No. A 9455), and a U.S. Army P-40 fighter, (Ser. No. 41-14186), were involved in a mid-air collision over the Sakonnet River.  A security guard who’d witnessed the incident said that there had been three aircraft in close proximity to each other just prior to the accident, and that after the collision, two of the planes fell into the river.   

     Another witness to the accident was George Helger of Tiverton, who was working on his scallop boat off Jack Island Point south of an area known as Stone Bridge.  He saw two parachutes deploy and watched as the aviators dropped down into the water, and immediately went to their aid.  The first man he reached was Lt. Cmdr. Clarence Hawkins, the pilot of the Grumman aircraft.  After rescuing Hawkins, Helger set off to save the other man, 2nd. Lt. Robert A. Marsh, 24, the pilot of the army airplane, but Marsh sank beneath the water before he could be reached.

     Helger also came upon a body floating in the water and retrieved it.  The parachute the man was wearing hadn’t been opened.  He was identified as Aviation Machinist’s Mate James Harris Elmer, Jr., 18, of Bridgeton, New Jersey.  Elmer had been aboard the Grumman craft. 

     It was also reported that a third man aboard the Grumman airplane, a radio operator identified only by his last name, “McAlendon”, was missing. 

     No further information is available as of this update.

    

     Sources:

     Fall River Herald, “Army and Navy Planes In Crash”, September 30, 1942

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-29

     Findagrave.com  Memorial # 144801195  (Shows a photo of the grave.)

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

 

 

 

Off North Kingstown, R.I. – June 28, 1942

Off North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 28, 1942

  

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 10:30 a.m. on June 28, 1942, army aviator (rank unknown) Robert M. Flanders, 24, was killed when the airplane he was piloting crashed at the water at the east end of Hope Island, which is located in Narragansett Bay, just off shore from the former Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown.   The type of aircraft and details of the accident are unknown.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-23  

    Update September 15, 2015:  Robert Flanders was a 2nd Lieutenant, and was from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The aircraft he was piloting was a P-40E (#40-440)

    Sources:

     New York Times, “4 Army Fliers Die In Ohio”, June 29, 1942.  (The article covered more than one plane crash.)

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist.

     Update March 2, 2016:   This accident occurred while Lt. Flanders, and 2nd Lt. David H. Brown were engaged in a mock aerial dogfight at 15,000 feet in their P-40 airplanes.  At one point, Lt. Flanders’ P-40 began to dive at high speed, reaching the speed of 400 mph.  At 8,000 feet he began to pull out of the dive at which point his plane exploded in mid-air. 

     A statement filed by Lt. Brown to Army investigators reads as follows:

     “Lt. Flanders and I were on a combat mission when his plane exploded and he met his death.

     We were on oxygen and fighting at 15,000 feet at this time.  Lt. Flanders rolled over on his back and started down in a split-S.  I immediately rolled over and followed him down.  As he started to pull out at about 8,000 feet, and traveling at approximately 400 mph, there was a terrific explosion and his plane went to pieces.”    

      The accident was also witnessed by at least three observers on Hope Island, all of whom basically stated that after the explosion the plane fell nose first into the water.

     It was the opinion of the accident investigation committee that the explosion originated in the reserve fuel tank, possibly caused by a portion of engine cowling being ripped loose from the force of the dive and cutting into the tank.  

     Both pilots were attached to the 66th Fighter Squadron then based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Lt. Flanders had obtained his pilots rating on May 29, 1942.

     Lt. Flanders was born June 23, 1917, and died just five days after his 24th birthday. He’s buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

     Sources: 

     United States Army Crash Investigation Report#42-6-28-8

     www.findagrave.com

     Updated March 9, 2016

     On June 12, 1942, sixteen days before his fatal accident, Lt. Flanders had a close call while flying another P-40 aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-36514).  On that date, he was returning to Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, after a routine training flight.  Just as he was landing, a strong gust of wind lifted the left wing, causing the right wing to touch the ground and send the plane into a 270 degree “ground loop”.  The aircraft suffered some damage, but Lt. Flanders was unhurt.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-6-12-32, dated June 26, 1942.

    

  

East Providence, R.I. – January 12, 1943

East Providence, Rhode Island – January 12, 1943

Updated December 29, 2015

    

U.S. Navy SBD auntless National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy SBD auntless
National Archives Photo

     At 3:00 p.m. on January 12, 1943, two U.S. Navy SBD-4 Dauntless aircraft were returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a patrol/photographic  flight when they encountered snow squalls over the Providence metropolitan area and were forced to make emergency landings. 

     One aircraft (Bu. No. 06925) attempted to land in a field near St. Mary’s Seminary on Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence, and in the process collided with a tree and flipped over.  The pilot, Ensign John Robert Jasper, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, was killed, and his companion, Photographer 3C, Ollen Amay Stevens, 26, of  Detroit, Michigan, was seriously injured.

     St. Mary’s Seminary is today known as St. Mary’s Bay View Academy located at 3070 Pawtucket Avenue.  

    The second aircraft made a hard landing in another field about a quarter of a mile away.  The pilot, Ensign William E. McCarthy, 23, of Mansfield, Mass., and his companion, Seaman Apprentice Edward Goumond, 20, of Johnston, R.I., were slightly injured.      

     Ensign Jasper had just celebrated his 22nd birthday twelve days earlier on December 30th.   His body was brought to Quonset Naval Air Station In North Kingstown, Rhode Island in preparation for burial. He’s buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Afton, Missouri.  To see a picture of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see Memorial # 47782542. 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #43-17

     Larry Webster, R. I. Aviation Archaeologist & Historian

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Pilot Killed In Crash Upstate”, January 13, 1943, page 12

    

North Central State Airport – April 21, 1986

North Central State Airport – April 21, 1986

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     At 12:30 p.m. on April 21, 1986, a Cessna 310 (N128K), left Willow Run Airport in Michigan bound for North Central Airport in Smithfield, R.I., to make a delivery for a company located in North Smithfield.  

     At 3:28 p.m. the pilot took off for his return flight, and according to witnesses, circled the airport area twice before suddenly diving nose-first onto a rocky outcrop about 600 feet from the north-south runway.  The plane exploded on impact killing the 23-year-old pilot. 

     One witness from a business located on Albion Road told a Woonsocket Call reporter, “It made a low pass over our shop the first time it came by.  The engines sounded okay.  I just thought the pilot was disoriented.  When it came by low again the second time, it was flipped over on it side, and when it went over the fence (separating Albion Road from the airport) it was completely flipped over and no where near where it should have been approaching from.”

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Michigan Pilot Killed In Fiery No. Central Crash”, April 22, 1986 

     NTSB report NYC86FA112, microfiche # 32967    

Glocester, R. I. – February 22, 1981

Glocester, Rhode Island – February 22, 1981 

     On February 22, 1981, two men took off from Franklin Airport near Williamsburg, Virginia, bound for Bedford, Massachusetts, when they ran into fog and clouds over New England.  While over the Glocester area, the aircraft crashed on a wooded hilltop overlooking Spring Grove Pond, on the east side of Spring Grove Road.   

     Both pilot and passenger were able to extricate themselves from the wreck before police and fire arrived, and were transported to Fogarty Hospital in North Smithfield for non-life-threatening injuries.

     The aircraft, a Piper Cherokee PA-28 (N5248L) was a total loss.   

Sources: 

Rhode Island State Police Report – Chepachet Barracks #5-81  

Providence Journal, “2 Survive Chepachet Plane Crash” February 23, 1981   

 

Jamestown, R. I. – July 1, 1976

Jamestown, Rhode Island – July 1, 1976

Off Beavertail Light

     As part of America’s 1976 bicentennial celebration, a flotilla of tall ships comprising sailing vessels from around the world made their way to the United States and down the east coast.   On July 1, 1976, after visiting Newport, the ships left Rhode Island for New York.  As they were passing for review just off the coast of Jamestown near Beavertail Light, two private aircraft narrowly missed having a mid-air collision.   As one aircraft flew on, the other was seen going down into the water about 50 yards off the eastern shore of Beavertail Park.  It sank immediately and no survivors were seen in the water.

     The downed aircraft, a Piper PA-28, (N9184K) was piloted by Charles Kramos, of Barrington, R.I.  His body was later recovered by divers.  The other aircraft was not identified.

     Sources:

     (Meriden Ct.) The Morning Record, “Plane Crashes While Circling Ship Parade”, July 2, 1976

     (New London, Ct.) The Day, “Plane Crash Mars Start Of Tall Ships”, July 2, 1976, Pg. 19    

Jamestown, R. I. – August 1, 1968

Jamestown, Rhode Island – August 1, 1968

     On August 1, 1968, a single engine Cessna flying over Jamestown struck a 600 foot radio antenna near Beavertail Light.  It then crashed and burned.  The pilot and two passengers aboard were killed, but not identified in the newspaper.

     The antenna belonged to the U.S. Navy, and had been put into operation less than three months earlier on May 22.      

Source: Woonsocket Call, “”Trio Killed As Light Plane Hits Jamestown Guy Wire”, August 1, 1968, Pg. 1 

Westerly Airport – June 19, 1965

Westerly Airport – June 19, 1965

Westerly, Rhode Island

     On June 19, 1965, a small plane with two men aboard crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Westerly Airport.  Both men were killed.

     The dead were identified as (pilot) Robert White, 25, of Stratford, Ct., and Herman Stephens of Moosup, Ct.. 

     Witnesses said the planes engine could be heard “sputtering” on approach.  In May of 1966, the Civil Aeronautics Board released the finding of its investigation.  “An inspection revealed low compression of the No. 3 cylinder with appreciable leakage of the No. 3 intake valve…From the overall evidence it was concluded that a power failure did occur.”    

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Power Failure Blamed For RI Plane Crash”, May 9, 1966, Pg. 1  

Warwick, R.I. – November 1, 1962

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 1, 1962

     On November 1, 1962, a plane carrying a pilot and one passenger crashed in heavy fog as it approached Hillsgrove Airport. (T.F. Green Airport.)  The pilot survived the crash, but his passenger did not.  

Source: New York Times, “Pilot Found Alive In Crash; Passenger Is dead In Cabin”, November 2, 1962

Smithfield Airport, R.I. – August 25, 1940

Smithfield Airport, Smithfield, Rhode Island – August 25, 1940

     On August 25, 1940, Stanley G. Smith, 21, of Woonsocket, crashed while practicing take-offs and landings at the Smithfield Airport.  His aircraft landed upside-down in an apple orchard about 275 yards from the end of the grass runway.  The plane, a 1937 Continental Cub Monoplane (NC-20012) was a total wreck, but fortunately Smith escaped with only minor injuries.   Undaunted by his brush with death, he climbed into another airplane and flew again a few minutes later!

     The former Smithfield Airport was located where Bryant University stands today.  The runway was located near the present-day football stadium.  The airport opened in 1932, and remained in operation into the 1950s, and should not be confused with present-day North Central State Airport, which is located in Smithfield, R. I., and is sometimes referred to as the Smithfield Airport.    

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Woonsocket Flier Escapes Serious Injury As Plane Crashes Near Smithfield Airport.” August 26, 1940

       

North Smithfield, R. I. – May 19, 1959

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 19, 1959

 

F-89 Scorpion U. S. Air Force Photo

F-89 Scorpion
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On May 19, 1959, two U. S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion jets attached to the 58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were dispatched from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to intercept an unidentified aircraft that appeared on air defense radar.  The flight was actually an unannounced drill.  Such drills were common, one air command would send a plane into another air command’s air space to test readiness and proficiency.

     The crew of one F-89 consisted of the pilot, Captain Arthur Canella, 29, and his radar observer, Lieutenant Robert J. Scearce Jr., 26.  Once airborne, Canella’s F-89 was designated the radio call sign, “Kilo November Nine”, and the other “Kilo November Ten”.  Even though they were scrambled out of Massachusetts, they were put in radio contact with the New York Air Defense Sector which was using the call sign “Occasion”. 

      Ironically, Lieutenant Scearce wasn’t scheduled to be on this particular flight.  He was supposed to be relieved at the end of his shift by another radar observer, but when the man showed up he asked Scearce to cover for him for an hour or so until he could register his car.  Scearce agreed, and thirty minutes later the scramble horn sounded.

      As the Scorpions sped through the upper atmosphere at 30,000 feet on an interception course, both jets found themselves flying in thick clouds, or “popeye” in Air Force jargon, and were forced to fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).  Canella and Scearce, (Kilo November Nine) began closing in on the “target” using their on-board radar, while Kilo November Ten was positioned a few miles away serving as the surveillance aircraft per instructions from Occasion.  The following dialogue leading up to the accident is taken from a radio transcript submitted with the official Air Force Crash Investigation Report.  (59-5-19-2) 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Nine, your heading is two eight zero, your target, thirty five port now twelve miles.  Do you have a contact?”  

NINE: “Rog, we have a contact.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, Contact.” 

After a few moments of radio traffic between Occasion and the other aircraft: 

NINE: “Zero Nine has a Judy.” 

OCCASION: “Judy for zero nine.  Investigate, full I.D. please.” 

NINE: “Zero nine.” 

A few moments later: 

OCCASION: “Ten, nine is now a mile and a half behind the target, you hold them both the port side twenty five degrees at fourteen to thirteen miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, ten” 

OCCASION: “Ten, they’re in ten miles.  Do you have a contact?”  (Occasion was informing ten that nine and the target were now within ten miles of his aircraft and asking if he had them on radar.)  

TEN: “Negative, ten seems to be bent here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger ten, let’s come port two eight zero degrees that’ll place them fifteen to twenty your port side at seven to eight miles.” 

TEN: “Roger two eight.” 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you Victor Fox now?” (Asking if Nine was now above the cloud cover and flying on Visual Flight, (Victor Fox), Rules.) 

TEN: “Roger, we’re on top at thirty seven.” (The report lists ten as answering, but nine was asked the question.  This could be a typo.) 

OCCASION: “Ten, your heading two seven zero, the target will be your two thirty position twelve miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, understand, two thirty at twelve.  Do you have a stranger passing about twelve o’clock at four or five miles?”  (Apparently the aircraft’s radar was picking up another plane and was asking if Occasion had it on their radar.)  

OCCASION: “Ten, that’s negative, you have a stranger off your starboard side at one thirty at fourteen.  I have no stranger that neck of your position.”  

OCCASION: “Ten, I now have a stranger in your heading of two seven zero in your ten o’clock position at six.” 

After some course correction instructions between Occasion and Ten, Occasion checks on Nine. 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you still popeye?” 

NINE: “That’s affirm, I think we are going to get him soon here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine.” 

OCCASION: “Ten, what state fuel?” 

TEN: “Roger, ten has ten thousand pounds, oxygen sweet.” (10,000 lbs. of fuel and plenty of oxygen to breathe due to the altitude.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, ten continue at gate your pigeons home plate zero seven zero degrees at forty five.” (“gate your pigeons” – Air Force slang for use afterburner for maximum power.) 

TEN: “Roger.  Forty-five starboard twenty four.” 

NINE: “It’s a B-47 type aircraft, I’ll pull in and get numbers.”  (The pilot was required to get the serial number on the tail of the target aircraft as proof they had identified it.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, we’re standing by.” 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, starboard three-three zero.” 

TEN: “Roger three-three.” 

NINE: “Zero nine is breaking it off.  I’ll give you the numbers here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, nine break port – port one eight zero degrees the hard way.  I’ll join ten up with you.”  

NINE: “I’ve already broken starboard, I’d had to break into the aircraft to break                               port.” 

     This was the last radio transmission received from Kilo November Nine.      

     Canella and Scearce had broken to starboard, and unknowingly began heading almost straight down due to the lack of visual reference points.  The aircraft began picking up speed, and then broke the sound barrier, something it was not designed to do.  When it finally broke free of the clouds the situation became apparent, and the crew was forced to eject.  

     The Plexiglas canopy flew off as explosive charges under the crews’ seats blew them free of the cockpit.  For the two men, hitting the slipstream at 700 mph was like being slammed into a brick wall. Both injured their shoulders in the bail out leaving them incapable of controlling their parachutes as they descended.   

     Meanwhile, those at Air Defense Command began to realize something was wrong.  Both Occasion and Kilo November Ten tried to radio Nine, but got no response.  Occasion reported to Ten that they had lost Nine on radar.  

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, your Nine should now have gone off  your starboard side.  His last position that I had him was about fifteen your port side seven miles.”   

TEN: “Roger, you still have no paint on him?” 

OCCASION: “Negative, I’m not painting his parrot, (not on radar) I lost him, you heard the last transmission that he made to us as he turned starboard.” 

TEN: “Roger, you want to clear me down through this stuff, (the clouds) I’ll drop on down here a little bit lower.” 

OCCASION:  “Ten that negative, be advised we’re over land and if anything did                             happen to Nine, no sense taking you down there too.”  (Kilo November Ten was the given instructions to return back to Otis AFB.) 

     The men bailed out over the city of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Many on the ground who witnessed the parachutes deploy first thought it was all part of a stunt connected to the upcoming Madi Gras celebration.       

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,  at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.   The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,
at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.
The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

     Lieutenant Scearce landed hard on the roof of the U.S. Rubber Company at 85 Fairmont Street,   suffering from multiple serious injuries connected to the bailout.  

      Employees of the plant climbed to the roof using a fire escape.  Dorothy Kane, the industrial nurse for the company, began administering first aid while police and firemen converged on the area.  Scearce was transported to Woonsocket Hospital where he stayed for the next eleven days.        

      Meanwhile, Captain Canella landed in Harris Pond next to the Precious Blood Cemetery in northern Woonsocket.  Looking down during his descent he saw 17-year-old Roland Ruge working in the cemetery and began calling for help. The wind carried him across the cemetery and straight into Harris Pond where he became tangled in the cords of his parachute.   Acting quickly, Roland dove into the chilly water and swam 200 feet from shore to reach Canella.  Roland struggled to pull the injured flyer to shore while keeping his head above water.  As he neared shore someone threw him a rope. 

     Both Canella and Ruge were transported to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.  While the captain was admitted for his injuries, Roland was treated for hypothermia and released.   

    While the crew of the F-89 came down in Woonsocket, the aircraft continued down into the neighboring town of North Smithfield, about 200 yards west of Greenville Road, (Rt. 104), at a point about three-tenths of a mile south of where Providence Street intersects with Smithfield Road.  The plane exploded in a massive fireball. 

     The wreckage at the crash site was scattered in a swath a half-mile long and roughly 300 feet wide.  Both engines were found intact approximately 300 feet past where the initial impact occurred.  The fires burned hot enough to melt the aluminum from the plane.  In one area, it was reported that the melted aluminum remained liquid until the firemen cooled it with water from their hoses. 

     The ejection seat belonging Lt. Scearce was later recovered by on Wright’s Farm on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, which is several miles away from where the air-crew parachuted to earth. 

     The Scorpion involved in this crash was an F-89 J, serial number 53-2621A.   

     While the aircrew lay recuperating at Woonsocket Hospital, Roland Ruge was hailed a hero by the Air Force for saving Captain Canella’s life.  Roland later received an official award from the Air Force and was given a tour of Otis Air Force Base.  While being given the tour, he was able to view the remains of the wrecked F-89, and was presented with the cockpit compass as a keepsake.     

Sources:

United States Air Force Crash Investigation Report #59-5-19-2

Woonsocket Call, “Two Bail Out Safely As AF Jet Crashes In North Smithfield”, May 19, 1959.

Providence Journal, “2 Airmen Hurt Parachuting”, May 20, 1959, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Pilot Blames Going Too Fast”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Plane Crashes In Rhode Island”, May 20, 1959   Cape Cod Standard Times, “Explosion Of Otis jet Being Probed”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Investigation Is Continuing”, May 21, 1959

Woonsocket Call, “AF, Pilot’s Wife Pour Thanks On Hero Ruge”, May 21, 1959

Providence Journal, “Gathering Up Of Fighter Pieces Begins”, May 21, 1959, Pg. 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Central Airport – June 24, 1978

North Central Airport – June 24, 1978

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     On June 25, 1978, a local man went to North Central State Airport to fly his aircraft, a Grumman AA-1A, and discovered that the battery was dead.  A 19-year-old mechanic went to assist, and attempted to hand-start the plane.  When the engine suddenly kicked over, the propeller blade struck the mechanic in the head causing an open fracture to his skull.   He was rushed to a nearby hospital and underwent surgery, but succumbed to his injuries on June 30th.

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Propeller Accident Injures Mechanic”, June 25, 1978.  

NTSB Report #NYC78FNA32

 

Narragansett Bay – February 25, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – February 25, 1945 

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On February 25, 1945, Ensign Thomas William McSteen, 21, was killed when the F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70670) he was piloting crashed near Fox Island in the west passage of Narragansett Bay, between Jamestown and the mainland.  Ensign McSteen and three other Hellcat aircraft were taking part in a carrier landing training exercise at the time.  After examining the recovered aircraft, investigators concluded the accident occurred as a result of engine failure.  

     Ensign McSteen graduated Mt. Lebanon, Penn. High School in 1941, and enlisted in the navy in February of 1943. He received his Ensign’s commission and his pilot’s wings at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, in July of 1944.

     Ensign McSteen was survived by his wife Margaret Elizabeth, who he married at Pensacola NAS on July 22, 1944.  He’s buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Pennsylvania.    

  

Image from  "That We Might Have A Better World" by the Mt. Lebanon, Penn. School Dist. 1946 CLICK TO ENLARGE

Image from
“That We Might Have A Better World” by the Mt. Lebanon, Penn. School Dist. 1946
CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian & Archaeologist

     Pittsburgh Post – Gazzette, “Mt. Lebanon Girl Ensign’s Bride”, July 30, 1944 

     Historic Pitsburgh General Text Collection – Pittsburgh Library, “That We Might Have A Better World”, authored by the Mt. Lebanon School District, 1946. www.images.library.pitt.edu 

U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 25, 1945

Smithfield, R. I. – February 4, 1977

Smithfield, Rhode Island – February 4, 1977

Nadeau Farm, Limerock Road

     Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on February 4, 1977, a Cessna 150-L (N6756G) made a run over North Central State Airport at an altitude of only 200 feet.  (The normal height for a run at the airport is 800 feet.) Runway workers who saw the plane go by noted it didn’t make a turn to land, and considered the possibility that it may have been involved in an accident.  They drove to the end of the runway, and then along the tree line, but after finding nothing, returned to their work figuring the pilot had decided not to land.  Unknown to everyone at the time was that the plane had crashed into a livestock shed on the farm of Edward Nadeau on Limerock Road. 

     The accident was discovered by Mr. Nadeau when he went out to feed his cattle.  Rescue personnel responded, and found one man, flight instructor Steven Nottell, 30, of Cranston, R. I., still alive and transported him to Fogarty Memorial Hospital in North Smithfield, where he was listed in critical condition.  Another man, student pilot Paul D. Gurette, 24, of North Kingstown, R. I., was dead at the scene.  

     Officials ruled out engine trouble as no distress call had been received, and theorized the plane may have stalled while attempting to turn back towards the airport.  It landed nose-down, with the tail sticking upwards out of the shed.

     On February 8th, it was reported that officials suspected a second aircraft may have been involved, and that a possible minor mid-air collision may have occurred.  This idea was based on some un-explained traces of paint found on the fuselage, and that someone reported another Cessna had taken off from the airport shortly before the accident.  However, this theory was later discounted.   

     On February 17th, it was reported that Steven Nottell was still in a coma, and had not regained consciousness since the crash, and investigators said they still hadn’t determined a cause for the accident. 

     On March 6, 1977, it was reported that Mr. Nottell had passed away, and never regained consciousness.

     Sources:    

     Woonsocket Call, “Man Killed, 1 Critical, In Smithfield”, February 4, 1977.    

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Survivor Critical”, February 5, 1977.

     Providence Journal, “Flight Teacher Still Critical”, February 6, 1977, Pg. B-15.

     Woonsocket Call, “Prober Suspects Midair Scrape In Plane Crash”, February 8, 1977

     Providence Journal, “Second Plane Eyed As Cause Of Fatal Crash”, February 8, 1977, Pg. B-1.    

     Providence Journal, “Aviation Officials Discount 2nd Plane”, February 9, 1977, Pg. B-4.

     Providence Journal, “Air Crash Victim Still In Coma After 12 Days”, February 17, 1977, Pg. B-13.

     Providence Journal, “Second Air Crash Victim Dies”, March 6, 1977, Pg. B-15.

       

 

    

Lincoln, R. I. – July 24, 1971

Lincoln, Rhode Island – July 24, 1971

     In the early morning hours of July 24, 1971, two men took off from North Central State Airport in Smithfield, R.I. for a practice flight.  The pilot, Robert R. Rogers, 32, of North Providence, R.I., was flying with one passenger, Pasquale J. Petrarca, 28, of Providence.  At about 2:40 a.m. while circling the airport, the aircraft suddenly went down in a wooded area about a quarter of a mile from the airport.  Both men were killed instantly.

     The airport is located in Smithfield, R.I., but the aircraft came down in the town of Lincoln, R.I.  The airport sits on the town line.

     The aircraft involved was a Cessna 172-K  (N84446)  

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Lincoln Plane Crash Kills 2”, July 25, 1971

Hopkinton, R.I. – December 13, 1945

Hopkinton, Rhode Island – December 13, 1945

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver

U.S. Navy Photo

     On December 13, 1945, an SB2C-4E Helldiver (Bu. No. 83080) took off from Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a gunnery training flight.  While making a tight turn in the air at 1,400 feet, the plane suddenly spun in and crashed in woodland off Panciera Road in the town of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.  (The area of the crash is approximately eight miles from the airfield.) 

     Both crewmen aboard were killed instantly.  They were:

     (Pilot) Ensign Kenneth Walter Barnes, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio.  He’s buried in St. Joseph’s New Cemetery in Cincinnati. He was survived by his wife Dorothy. 

    Aviation Ordnanceman 3cl Charles Otmar Henninger, 28, of Sumner, Iowa. He’s buried at St. Peter’s Evan. Cemetery in Bremer Co. Iowa.  He was survived by his wife Geneva.  For more information about the life of Charles Henninger see the website “Bremer County Veterans Affairs” at  www.bremercountyva.org/gravesite/charles-otmar-henninger/

     Sources:

     (book) BuNos! Dispostion of World War II USN, USMC, And USCG Aircraft Listed By Bureau Numbers, by Douglas E. Campbell, copyright 2012.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records: 45-118, and 45-119. 

     Findagrave.com- Charles Otmar Henninger, Memorial # 27384806

     Findagrave.com – Kenneth Walter Barnes, Memorial # 129069814

     Bremer County Veterans Affairs website – see above.

     U.S. Navy Crash Brief, 6-45 

Smithfield, R. I. – August 19, 1970

Smithfield, Rhode Island  – August 19, 1970

Updated July 6, 2017

     At 9:35 p.m., on August 19, 1970, an single-engine Ercoupe Model E, (N94832), took off from runway 23 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield.   According to witnesses, shortly thereafter, the plane made two left turns, as if the pilot was attempting to land back on the runway.   Then the plane suddenly exploded in mid-air and nose-dived into a wooded area off Lime Rock Road.  The lone pilot did not survive.    

     One theory considered by investigators was that the pilot had experienced engine trouble.   

     Sources: 

    Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Victim Believed Johnston Man”, August 20, 1970, Pg. 1  

     Providence Journal, “Man Killed In Burning Plane Crash”, August 20, 1970 (with photo)

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed As Plane Explodes, Crashes In Smithfield Woods”, August 20, 1970, page 2 (with photo)

North Central Airport – July 19, 1952

North Central Airport – July 19, 1952

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     North Central State Airport, located in the northeast corner of Smithfield, Rhode Island, opened in December of 1951.  Several months later the first aviation related fatality at the airport occurred there.

     On July 18, 1952, Clinton Corey, 31, made an emergency landing at North Central Airport after the Piper Cub he was piloting developed engine trouble.  The aircraft was owned by E. W. Wiggins Airways of Norwood, Massachusetts, which Corey worked for.  He notified the company of the situation, and arrangements were made to leave the plane overnight to be repaired the following day.

     On the morning of July 19th, Corey returned with William Coullahan, another Wiggins employee, in another Wiggins aircraft.  Both men thoroughly went over the aircraft Corey had been flying the day before, and by 3:30 p.m. they deemed it ready for a flight back to Norwood. 

     Coullahan climbed aboard the plane they had been working on, while Corey agreed to fly the other one.  Coullahan was to take off first, and then Corey would follow, and both would stay together while en-route back to Norwood.       

     As Coullahan took off, he completed a 200 foot circle at the end of the field before suddenly crashing in a cow pasture just beyond the airport.  Coullahan was taken to Roger Williams Hospital in Providence where he died the following day.

     Coullahan, 29, of Westwood, Mass. was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II where he served in the Pacific Theatre.  He was survived by his wife Florence Mae. 

Sources:

Providence Journal, “Mass.. pilot Injured When Plane Falls Near Smithfield Airport”, July 20, 1952, Pg. S1  

Providence Journal, “Mass. pilot Dies After R.I. Crash”, July 21, 1952, Pg. 20

Woonsocket Call, Photo with caption. July 21, 1952, Pg. 5

Charlestown, R.I. – April 17, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 17, 1944

Great Swamp

Updated July 8, 2017 

 

Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On April 17, 1944, a flight of four F6F-3 Hellcats left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a familiarization training flight.   During the flight the aircraft flew in a line of four, in a “follow the leader” type of pattern.  It was during a phase of the exercise when the aircraft were changing positions in the formation that a mid-air collision between two of the aircraft occurred.  Both aircraft, (Bu. No. 40345), piloted by Ensign Stephen L. Smith, 21, and (Bu. No. 66034), piloted by Lieutenant Robert C. Stimson, 27, crashed and exploded in a wooded portion of the “Great Swamp” area of Charlestown.  Neither pilot survived.

     Ensign Stephen Luther Smith was from of St. Andrews, Florida. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Panama City, Florida.  (See www.findagrave.com, memorial #32844142)

     Lieutenant Robert Charles Stimson was from of Shelby, Ohio, and was survived by his wife. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Shelby.  To read more about Lt. Stimson, and to see photographs of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial 73196817.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records       

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-12263

Westerly, R. I. – March 4, 1950

Westerly, Rhode Island – March 4, 1950

     On March 4, 1950, two civil aircraft, a Cessna 140, and a Cessna 170, collided in mid-air about a mile-and-a-half off the shore of the Misquamicut section of Westerly and went down in the water.  Each aircraft carried two people; each a flight student and their instructors.

     The Coast Guard was called to employ divers in the search for the aircraft.  Debris from both planes was later washed ashore, confirming that neither plane made it to shore after the collision. 

     As the search continued, many spectators lined the beaches despite the cold weather.  Some doubted the planes would be found.  The Providence Journal reported in part,  “Westerly residents recalled yesterday that during World War II some half-dozen Navy planes had crashed in approximately the same area as the two light craft Saturday, and that neither the planes nor the pilots ever were found. They attributed this to the existence of a rock ledge some distance offshore which deflects the strong tides of the vicinity and tends to wash objects on the bottom out to sea rather than towards shore.”    

     Those aboard the Cessan 170 were identified as (pilot) William A. McCormac, 39, and Lester Silvers, 26. 

     Those aboard the Cessna 140 were identified as (pilot) Reginald Delagrange, 31, and Arthur E. Smith, 25.

     Sources:

Providence Journal, “Divers To Seek 2 Aircraft In Which Four Lost Lives” March 6, 1950, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Four Feared Dead In Crash Of Planes”, March 6, 1950 

 

    

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island

     On September 8, 1949, Ensign Henry J. Harling, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y. was piloting a Grumman Bearcat at 25,000 feet over the ocean when his aircraft caught fire.  Witnesses on boats reported seeing a plane trailing smoke crash into the water off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island.  Planes and rescue boats were immediately launched to search for Ensign Harling, but nothing was found.

     Source: New York Times, “Navy Pilot Dives In Sea” , September 9, 1949 

Block Island Sound, R.I. – July 13, 1944

Block Island Sound, Rhode Island – July 13, 1944

5 miles off Charlestown, R.I.

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     Ensign Gerald Vivian Brosteaux was killed during a night training flight July 13, 1944 when the F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. #42254), he was piloting crashed in the water five miles off Charlestown, Rhode Island.

     Ensign Brosteaux was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 102 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  He’s buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego OSA Site 25-A.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com #67092141   

Smithfield Airport – May 17, 1947

Smithfield Airport – May 17, 1947

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     On May 17, 1947, pilot Charles J. Kirby, 34, of Cranston, suffered critical injuries when he undershot the grass runway at Smithfield Airport and crashed his WWII surplus monoplane through a stone wall.   He was transported to Roger Williams Hospital in Providence. 

     The Smithfield Airport opened in 1932, and once occupied the land now owned by Bryant University.  The airfield was located where the Bryant football stadium stands today.  Smithfield  Airport no longer exists, and should not be confused with North Central State Airport, which is still an active airport in the town of Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Men Escape Without Injuries As Plane Crashes In Cumberland”, May 26, 1947.  This article focused on a plane crash in Cumberland, R. I. which occurred on May 25, 1947, but mentioned that the Cumberland accident was the third aviation accident for the month of May in Rhode Island.  One of the other two accidents mentioned was the one in Smithfield at the Smithfield Airport on May 17th.  

 

Berkley Airfield – May 25, 1947

Berkley Airfield – May 25, 1947

Cumberland, Rhode Island

     On May 25, 1947, Harold H. Horning, 25, was attempting to take off from Berkley Airfield in Cumberland, when the engine suddenly lost power just after he had left the ground.  Horning managed to maneuver the aircraft away from a group of boys playing baseball at the far end of the field just before crashing.    

     The aircraft was wrecked, but Horning, and his two passengers, (brother) Edward Horning, 30, and Raymond Paquette, 46, all escaped without injury.    

     Berkley Airfield once existed in the Berkley section of the town of Cumberland, R. I..    

Source:

Providence Journal, “Men Escape Without Injuries As Plane Crashes In Cumberland”, May 26, 1947, Pg. 1 

Off Block Island – July 28, 1944

Off Block Island – July 28, 1944

    

U.S. Navy Avengers National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On the night of July 28, 1944, a U.S. Navy TBM-1D Avenger (Bu. No. 47455) was on a routine flight over the Atlantic Ocean -possibly on anti-submarine patrol – when it crashed about five miles south of Block Island.  Exactly what happened to the aircraft was never determined. 

      The aircraft was assigned to Escort Scouting Squadron 13, (VC-13). 

      All three crewmen aboard were lost.

     (The Pilot) Lieutenant William Van Arsdale Wilson, of Marysville, Calif.  Lt. Wilson was born July 4, 1919, and enlisted in the Naval Air Corps in August of 1941.  He was promoted to Lt. (jg.) in June, 1943, and to full Lieutenant on July 1, 1944.  He’d been with VC-13 for 19 months.  He’s buried in New Castle Cemetery in Newcastle, California.  (See Findagrave.com  #9376360 for a photo of his grave.)

     Aviation Radioman 2C Lloyd Elmer Hay, of Apopka, Fla.  AV2C Hay was born April 15, 1921, and is buried at Ft. Donelson National Cemetery in Dover, Tenn.  (See Findagrave.com  #132967419 for a photo of his grave.)

     Aviation Meatelsmith 2C James Wilburn Glover.  

     Sources:

     Newport Mercury, Navy Gives Names Of Missing Flyers” August 4, 1944

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist.

     Findagrave.com

South Kingstown, R.I. – May 31, 1944

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – May 31, 1944

Worden’s Pond

     

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 11:30 a.m. on May 31, 1944, Lt. Jg. Maxwell Michaux Corpening, 24, was killed when the U.S. Navy F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58317), he was piloting crashed in Worden’s Pond during a training flight.   

     Lt. (jg.) Corpening  was part of a flight of seven Hellcats practicing dive bombing techniques.  According to the U.S. Navy Accident Report, after the fourth dive, the formation was joined by “three strange planes” that were “seen to dive from above and maneuver in weaving stern attacks on the Hellcats, who were in extended column formation.  The flight leader continued to circle and climb as any further bombing runs would have been inadvisable while the other planes were mixed in the formation.”

     The “strange planes” are not identified, however their actions led to the breakup of the formation, which led to a mid-air collision between Lt. (jg.) Corpening’s aircraft and another Hellcat.  The other Hellcat was able to land safely at Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field.     

Sources:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-44697, dated May 31, 1944

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.  (Many navy deaths during WWII were recorded in North Kingstown, (Not South Kingstown) because Quonset Point NAS was located in North Kingstown.)   

 

Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

     Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On the afternoon of May 14, 1947, a helicopter being flown by a student pilot and an instructor crashed just after takeoff at Hillsgrove State Airport in Warwick.  According to witnesses, the aircraft was about 200 feet in the air when one of the rotor blades suddenly broke away. 

     Both men aboard were killed in the accident.  The dead were identified as: Robert F. Chott, 29, of Providence, the instructor, and Gardiner Watts, 27, of Boston, the student.    

Source: New York Times, “2 In Helicopter Killed” May 15, 1947 

    

Lincoln, R. I. – December 18, 1946

Lincoln, Rhode Island – December 18, 1946

     On December 18, 1946, William E. Ouger, 19, took off from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in a Ercoupe monoplane  bound for Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick, R.I.    As he was passing over northern Rhode Island, he noticed that his aircraft was very low on fuel, so he began looking for a place to land.  He spotted Clarke’s Field in Albion section of Lincoln, R. I., and attempted to land there, but he overshot the field and crashed in the middle of the intersection of Manville and Contrexeville Roads.  Ougar crawled out of the wrecked airplane virtually unharmed.

     The airplane was owned by the Connecticut Aviation Company.   

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane crashes On Albion Rd., Pilot Uninjured”, December 18, 1946

Woonsocket, R. I. – August 22, 1946

Woonsocket, Rhode Island – August 22, 1946

Barry Memorial Field

     On the afternoon of August 22, 1946, a U.S. Navy OY-1 training aircraft, (120461) took off from Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station with two men aboard.  The pilot was identified as John Cote, of Belmont, Mass., and the passenger as Dr. Leonard P. Johnke. 

    Shortly before three o’clock, while the plane was over North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the engine began skipping and loosing power.  Cote began looking for a place to land, and saw Barry Memorial Field on the Woonsocket/North Smithfield town line.   As the plane lost altitude it barely missed the power lines of the New England Power Company on Greenville Road. 

     As they came upon the field they discovered that there was a youth baseball game in progress.  Sticking their heads out of the airplane they began shouting warnings for the players to get out of the way, but the boys just stood transfixed.  Seeing that the boys weren’t getting out of the way, Cote gave the plane full throttle and had just enough power to swoop low over their heads.  At the far end of the field he attempted to turn the plane around, and as he did so, nosed into the field.      

     Besides the players and spectators, the crash was witnessed by two Rhode Island state troopers who happened to be a block away at Park Square when the accident happened.  They transported Cote and Johnke to Woonsocket Hospital in the back of their patrol car to be treated for non life-threatening injuries. 

     This was not the first time an aircraft had landed in Barry Field.  On June 27, 1934, a Greenfield, Mass. couple en-route from Greenfield to Boston got lost in foggy weather due to a malfunctioning compass.  While trying to orient themselves, they came upon Woonsocket, and landed at Barry Field to get their bearings.  

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “”Plane Crashes At Barry Field; Two Injured”, August 22, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Victims Leave Hospital”, August 24, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Aviator Lands At Barry Field Here To Get Bearings”, June 28, 1934.

 

 

Charlestown, R. I. – March 8, 1946

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 8, 1946

       

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On March 8, 1946, Ensign Clinton Graham Thornton was piloting an SB2C-5 Helldiver, (Bu. No. 89304) on a training flight with five other aircraft.  The aircraft were practicing dive-bombing techniques, and Thornton’s aircraft was in the number 2 position in a line of six. 

     The flight leader was executing a series of maneuvers with the other five planes following behind.  At one point Thornton’s Helldiver spun out of control and crashed about 2,000 feet north-east of a church belonging to the Narragansett Indian Tribe.  Ensign Thornton was unable to bail out and was killed.

     Ensign Thornton was based at Quonset Point, assigned to VT-74

     Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist      

Quonset Point NAS – April 6, 1945

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – April 6, 1945

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

    

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers  National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On April 6, 1945, two TBM Avengers assigned to Night Torpedo Squadron 55 at Quonset Point, were taking off at the same time for a night training mission when they collided at the intersection of runways 19 and 28. 

     Lt. Jg. John Frederick Kalb, 25, of West Helena, Arkansas, in aircraft #46123, was killed.

     Lt. Jg. W. F. Leeker in aircraft #16885, was seriously injured, but survived.  

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 was commissioned at Quonset Point NAS on March 1, 1945.  The squadron’s first fatal accident occurred not long afterwards on March 9, 1945, when Lt. Jg. Harold Boren was killed when his plane crashed in Westerly, Rhode Island, during an instrument training flight. 

     For more information about Night Torpedo Squadron 55 see the website;  vtn55.org 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-30 

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 history        

West Greenwich, R.I. – April 24, 1946

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – April 24, 1946 

     On April 24, 1946, two navy F4U Corsairs on a training flight out of Quonset Point NAS were involved in a mid-air collision over West Greenwich.  Moments later, the pilot of one plane bailed out.  His Corsair, (81416), came down onto a house and exploded, killing a mother and her 2-year-old son.   

     Despite a damaged wing, the pilot of the other Corsair, (81312), managed to make it back to the Quonset Naval Air Station. 

     Both planes were assigned to VBF-82.

     The dead were identified as Mrs. Eva Parenteau, 30, and her son Raymond.   Mrs. Parenteau’s other two children, Phillip, 9, and Joseph, 8, were playing in a nearby yard at the time and weren’t injured.   

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Mother, Baby Killed, Plane Crash Probed”, April 25, 1946, Pg. 1 

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

    

East Greenwich, R. I. – May 16, 1944

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944 

Near the Exeter town line, off Shippey Road

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 16, 1944, Lt. Cmdr. David Wooster Taylor, 32, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in a F6F-3 Hellcat (Bu. No. 41944) for a routine training mission.  He was killed when his aircraft crashed and burned at the Sunset Valley Reservation in East Greenwich.  The cause of the crash was not stated in newspapers.

     Taylor was survived by his wife Virginia, and two young children, Jean, 4, and David, 3.

     A housing development now stands on the site where this accident took place.

     Lt. Cmdr. Taylor was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross while assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) for his part in an attack against enemy shipping off Bodo, Norway, on October 4, 1943.   

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Lt. Cmdr. D. W. Taylor Killed In Plane Crash”, May 17, 1944, Pg. 1

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

      

Charlestown, R.I. – May 14, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 14, 1944

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 14, 1944, Ensign James Patrick Gannon, 22, of Jersey City, N.J., was flying an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42389)  practicing dive bombing at Worden’s Pond in Charlestown, R.I., when according to a witness, “something white” fell away from his plane.  The Hellcat then went into a roll and dove into the ground.  Gannon was killed instantly. 

     The cause of the crash was never determined. 

     Ensign Gannon is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, New Jersey.

Sources:

Hudson Dispatch, “Two Jersey City Fliers Killed In Plane Crashes”, May 16, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

The crater left by Ensign Gannon's Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

The crater left by Ensign Gannon’s Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

 

 

 

 

Wickford, R.I. – December 8, 1943

Wickford, Rhode Island – December 8, 1943

     On December 8, 1943, a U.S. Navy SB2C-1C Helldiver, (#18272) crashed in the woods behind the Wickford Barracks of the Rhode Island State Police.  According to one witness, the aircraft had a broken wing as it fell.  The pilot was killed.

    The pilot was Ross Allen Bennett, 22, of Amarillo, Texas.  He’s buried in Llano Cemetery in Amarillo.  

Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist and Historian.

       

Tiverton, R.I. – June 14, 1943

Tiverton, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

     On June 14, 1943, a Corsair I on loan to the British Navy, (#JT-110), piloted by British aviator Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, crashed into a wooded area near the Old Stone Church Cemetery in the Adamsville section of Tiverton, R.I.  The plane exploded on impact and Harris was killed. 

    Harris was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve serving at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. 

     Lt. Harris is buried in Island cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581

     Sources;

    Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Named In R. I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg1.

    Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian

     www.findagrave.com

   

Warwick, R. I. – April 6, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 6, 1943

     On April 6, 1943, a U.S. Army P-47C (41-6321) was coming in to land at Hillsgrove Army Air Field when the pilot overshot the runway and crashed into a private home at 252 Strawberry Field Road.  The plane tore into the structure seriously injuring a 70-year-old woman sitting in the living room.  Her two grandchildren had just left the room and gone into the kitchen moments before the crash occurred.  They were not injured. 

     The pilot had shut off the engine just before striking the house thereby averting a fire.  He crawled from the cockpit with only a scratch to the back of his neck.   He was assigned to the 340th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group.  

     The house suffered extensive damage and was knocked off its foundation. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Woman Hurt As Plane Rips Into Dwelling”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Army Plane Smashes House In Warwick; Woman Injured”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Warwick, R. I. – November 2, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 2, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 2, 1942, two U.S. Army P-40 fighter planes, based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, were on a training flight over Narragansett Bay when they collided in mid-air.   

     One plane, (41-14135), piloted by Staff Sgt. John W. Smallseed, 21, of Newton Falls, Ohio, suffered minor damage and was able to return safely to Hillsgrove.    

     The second plane, (41-14183), piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Pierson, 23, of Chicago, suffered heavy wing damage, and he was forced to bail out.  After the bailout, Pierson’s plane continued on and crashed in the center of the intersection of Barton Street and Grand Avenue in the Warwick Neck Section of the city. 

     The aircraft narrowly missed an automobile being driven by Edward W. Thurber of Pawtuxet.  The explosion of the P-40’s impact spewed debris and gasoline onto his car setting it on fire.  Thurber, not knowing for sure what had just happened, jumped from his flaming car and allowed it to roll down a hill where it came to rest in a vacant lot and continued to burn.   

     A home at 49 Barton Avenue was also set on fire, but the owner was able to extinguish the flames with a garden hose. 

     Mrs. Forrest B. Morgan of Grand Avenue told reporters that she had been standing where the plane crashed for twenty minutes waiting for her daughter.  She had just started back towards her home when the plane hit and was not injured.

     Meanwhile, Lt. Pierson was seen landing in Narragansett Bay where he disappeared after hitting the water.  Four volunteer firemen from the Conimicut Fire Department launched a boat to rescue Pierson, but needed to be rescued themselves when their boat capsized in the rough water. 

     Some reports were later received that Pearson had been rescued, but these were found to be in error.  He was officially reported as “missing”.  

     Harry Robbins, an eye witness to the crash, told reporters, “One (plane) passed under the other and the two wings hit.  The bottom plane turned over a couple of times, the pilot jumped out, and one wing started to smoke.  Then the plane made two wide circles and I saw it coming towards me.  The explosion it made when it landed was deafening.” 

Source:

Providence Journal, “Two Army Planes Collide Over bay; One Pilot Missing”, November 3, 1942, Pg. 1

          

   

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.     

Sources:

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.

 

Exeter, R. I. – September 8, 1943

Exeter, Rhode Island – September 8, 1943

Updated March 9, 2018

    

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     Navy pilot Ensign Robert R. Hirshkind was killed instantly when his F4U-1 Corsair, (Bu. No. 02368), crashed on the farm of Wallace Foster in the town of Exeter, R. I.  Ensign Hirshkind had been on a formation training flight out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station when the accident occurred.  Approximately 12 miles south-west of Wickford the flight encountered thick overcast that dropped nearly to the ground.  The accident occurred as the flight was descending through the overcast on instruments.  

     Ensign Hirshkind was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 75, (VF(n)-75).

Sources:

     The Standard, “Exeter Plane Crash Kills Navy Pilot”, September 9, 1943, Pg. 8 

     U.S. Navy Accident report, #44-8367, dated September 8, 1943

Scituate, R. I. – June 17, 1943

Scituate, Rhode Island – June 17, 1943

    

P-47C Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 17, 1943, a group of four army P-47 fighter aircraft left Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, R.I., for a training flight.  After an hour of flight time, the plane flown by 2nd Lt. Robert W. Powell developed engine trouble.  After notifying the flight leader of his situation his engine failed completely, and he was forced to “belly land” in an open field off Darby Road in the town of Scituate, R.I.   In coming down, the plane clipped the top of a tree, and skidded into a stone wall surrounded by brush.  The plane remained upright, and there was no fire.  Lt. Powell was relatively uninjured. 

 

 

     Scituate MapOne interesting footnote to this incident is the area in which this crash occurred.  Few people know that during World War II the former Suddard farm on Darby Road was the site of a top secret radio monitoring post, protected by armed guards, and staffed 24 hours a day by people tasked with listening to radio transmissions all over the world.  For some unexplained reason, this area of Scituate is capable of doing so.   

     The site was established in March of 1941, and remained in operation throughout the war.  It was credited for saving the Queen Mary with 10,000 troops aboard, and for preventing Japanese attempts to bomb American soil using hot air balloons. 

     Of course, Lt. Powell had no idea of this when he made his unexpected landing just down the street. 

     Powell’s aircraft was a P-47C Ser# 41-6132, assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, 311th Fighter Squadron.

     Another footnote: This was not Lt. Powell’s only forced landing.  On October 21, 1944, he and seven other P-47 pilots were forced to ditch in the water when low on fuel after an attack mission.  Powell’s plane’s serial number was 43-25636.     

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Crash Investigation report #43-6-7-14

     Providence Journal, “Army Plane Lands In Scituate Field”, June 18, 1943, Pg. 4.

     P-47 Ditching Story, www.pbyrescue.com/stories/p47_story.htm

               

Warwick, R. I. – April 12, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 12, 1943

 

P-47C Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of April 12, 1943, four army P-47C  Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick for a formation training flight.  The flight leader was 2nd Lt. Eldred G. Howard, with 2nd Lt. Gordon M. Kimpel in the number two position, followed by 2nd Lt. John H. Schrik, and 2nd Lt. Clifton D. Wheeler Jr.

     While flying an extended string formation at 8,000 feet, Lt. Howard pulled upwards expecting the other three planes to follow.  Lt. Kimpel followed, but the sun temporarily blinded him causing him to loose sight of Howard.  Kimpels’ aircraft (41-6634) then crashed into the rear of Howard’s (41-6174). 

     Howard’s plane went straight down into Narragansett Bay killing him.  Kimpel’s P-47 crashed in a swampy area off Cowesett Avenue in the Cowesett section of Warwick.  Kimpel managed to bail out, but was struck by the rear stabilizer of his plane and killed.  His body came down in a small pond near Meunier’s Shell Fish Company at Arnold’s Neck.    

      In his witness statement given later to army investigators, Lt. Schrik stated: “On April 12th, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Wheeler, Kimpel, and myself.  The time was approximately 0845. I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide and Lt. Howard’s plane went almost straight down.  I saw the plane hit the water and disappear.  As I was watching the plane during its entire descent, I know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or jump from the plane.”    

     Lt. Wheeler related the following in his statement.  “On April 12th, at approximately 0845, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Kimpel, Schrik and myself.  I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide.  Lt. Howard’s plane went straight down at an angle of about 35 degrees in a south easterly direction.  I saw the plane hit the water and know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or get out of the plane, as I watched it during the entire descent.  The plane disappeared immediately upon hitting the water.” 

     As a footnote to this incident, Lt. John H. Schrik did not survive the war.  He was killed in action in New Guinea on August 15, 1943, and is buried in Mount Emblem Cemetery, Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Pilot Is Killed In Plane Crash”, April 12, 1943, Pg. 1 

U.S.  Army Crash Investigation Report # 43-4-12-7

Website: Find-A-Grave – John H. Schrik 

 

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

    

    On June 14, 1943, Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Hamilton Morgan, (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) crashed on take-off at Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  The impact detonated a bomb the plane was carrying, fragments of which injured twenty-three men in the immediate area, but only three of them seriously.  

     Morgan initially survived the crash, but died the following day.  He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 1923, and was 19-years-old at the time of his death.  He was commissioned a midshipman in the R.N.V.R in 1942. 

     It was reported that Morgan was flying a single-seat aircraft, but the type was not specified. (Possibly a Corsair)  A newspaper account published June 17th mentioned another R.N.V.R. pilot was also killed on June 14 in an air crash in Rhode Island, but no specifics were given.  That pilot was identified as Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, 20, R.N.V.R., of Surrey, England.    

     Update 1: It has since been learned that Lt. Harris was killed when his Corsair I crashed behind a church in Tiverton, Rhode Island, on June 14, 1943.   

     Update 2:    

Quonset Point NAS June 14, 1943 U.S. Navy Photo

Quonset Point NAS
June 14, 1943
U.S. Navy Photo

     There is information to suggest that Sub-Lieutenant Morgan’s aircraft crashed into a bomb bunker setting off a series of explosions which might explain the high number of casualties connected to this incident.

     The aircraft piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Morgan was a Corsair I, on loan to the British.  

     (U.S. Navy Bu. No. 18139)

     (British number JT-117)

     

     Both Lt. Harris and Sub-Lieutenant Morgan are buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. 

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Victim Of Bomb Crash In Critical Condition”, June 16, 1943, Pg.1

     Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Names In R.I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg. 1

     University of Edinburgh Roll Of Honor, 1939- 1945

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #43-36

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581, and 15037579

 

      

Cumberland, R. I. – June 14, 1943

Cumberland, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943 

     On June 14, 1943, a U. S. Army P-47C Thunderbolt (41-6091) crashed on Abbott Run Valley Road in north Cumberland.  The aircraft came down clipping several tree tops before striking a telephone pole and crashing into the roadway.  The engine was torn loose and came to rest in a nearby potato field.  The plane was demolished.

     The cause of the crash was not stated.

     The pilot, William King, assigned to the 326 Fighter Group, survived the crash with relatively minor injuries.   

     Source: Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Unhurt”, June 15, 1943, Pg. 3

East Greenwich, R. I. – May 16, 1944

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944

     On May 16, 1944, an F6F-3 Hellcat (41944) assigned to VF-7 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, crashed at the west end of the former Sun Valley Rifle Range in East Greenwich.  Witnesses said the plane had been maneuvering over the area when it suddenly went into a tail spin and crashed.  The pilot was killed, and the subsequent fire ignited the surrounding woods. 

     The pilot, Lt. Comdr. David W. Taylor, was a squadron commander.  He was survived by a wife and two children.  

     Source: The Standard, “Quonset Pilot Falls To Death”, May 18, 1944.

         

    

North Kingstown, R.I. – April 22, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – April 22, 1944

Updated July 7, 2017

    

Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of Saturday, April 22, 1944, two F6F-3 Hellcats assigned to VF-7 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, collided in mid-air over the Quonset Manor neighborhood of North Kingstown.  Both pilots were killed.

     One plane sheared the tail off the other while both planes were several hundred feet in the air. 

     One of the Hellcats, (Bu. No. 42706), piloted by Ensign Joseph Clyde Rust, 22, of Alliance, Nebraska, crashed on King Phillip Drive and exploded. 

     The other Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41965), piloted by Ensign Oswald Eugene Asplundh Jr., 21, of Glenview, Illinois, crashed and burned to the waterline in Sawmill Pond.    

     Update:  The accident occurred while a flight of three Hellcats was flying in a Vee formation at 4,000 feet.  The flight leader, flying at the point of the Vee, suddenly began to pull away from the formation, and Ensigns Rust and Asplundh attempted to follow, and that’s when the collision occurred.  

Source:

Providence Journal, “2 Planes Collide At Quonset Manor”, April 23, 1944, Pg. 1

The Standard, “Two Planes Crash At Quonset Manor”, April 27, 1944, Pg. 1

     U.S. Navy Accident Report 

    

 

 

Cumberland, R. I. – September 8, 1940

Cumberland, Rhode Island – September 8, 1940

     On September 8, 1940, a small airplane crashed in a cornfield off Diamond Hill Road in Cumberland, not far from the Woonsocket Airport.  The plane was badly damaged, but there were no rep[orts of injuries.  No further details were mentioned.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Twas A Corn-y Landing”, September 9, 1940, Pg. 4

North Smithfield, R.I. – May 11,1941

North Smithfield, R.I. – May 11, 1941

Slatersville Athletic Field

     On May 11, 1941, George W. Verdon Jr., 22, took off from Ironstone Airport in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in a small airplane.  Shortly afterward he developed engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing at the Slatersville Athletic Field in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. After landing safely, he set to work on the motor.  After awhile, he was ready to take off again.

     As the aircraft began to leave the ground the engine suddenly cut out and the plane nosed into the field and skidded to a halt.  George emerged with minor injuries and was takne to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crashes On Slatersville Athletic Field”, May 12, 1941 

       

Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Approximate Location: Lat. 40-40 N, long. 70-25 W.  

 

OS2U Kingfisher U.S. Navy Photo

OS2U Kingfisher
U.S. Navy Photo

     On July 23, 1942, a flight of U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft were on a training flight over the Atlantic off the coast of Rhode Island when they encountered what the navy termed “extremely bad weather”.   As the planes continued on visibility dropped to near zero. 

     One of the planes was piloted by Ensign Harold W. Gray.  Upon entering the weather system, the flight leader signaled to Gray close in tighter which he did, taking a position to the leader’s right.  The leader wanted Gray to be able to keep him n sight as visibility dropped.  The flight leader went on instrument flight shortly afterwards, and at this time the planes were only 500 feet above the water. 

     The leader began a shallow turn to the right, and as he did so, Gray elected to slide his aircraft up and over the tail of the leader to take a new position on the leader’s left.  Gray’s aircraft disappeared into the scud and was never seen again. 

     According to the naval investigation report, it was the opinion of naval investigators that Gray, “lost sight of the leader and being in an unusual position and finding himself with no reference point, due to vertigo, he was unable to orient himself on instruments in time to avoid crashing into the water.” 

     Also lost in the accident was Lt. Jg. William Boddie Bartels of Memphis, Tenn.     

    The aircraft was an OS2U-3 Kingfisher, Bu. No. 09404, assigned to Quonset Point Naval Air Station, VB-9. 

Sources:

U.S. Navy Accident Investigation Brief #43-4537

Woonsocket Call, “Navy Airmen Lost On Patrol Flight”, July 24, 1942, Pg. 1

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

 Rhode Island

     There isn’t much information available about this accident as news reports were vague.     

     On February 13, 1943, two navy planes collided in mid-air while on a training flight over the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island.  The type of planes was not stated, but there were four crewmen between the two planes, three of whom were lost.   Their names were not stated.

     The sole survivor was identified as Aviation Mechinist’s Mate Joseph Leo Wallace, who was thrown clear by the impact, and saved by his parachute.  Wallace was rescued by a “fast Navy motor boat” which then developed engine trouble off Newport and drifted onto some rocks.  Wallace and the boat crew were rescued by the Coast Guard.  (The boat could not be saved.)

     Sources:

     Providence Journal: “4 Lost, 2 Rescued In Plane Mishaps”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 5 (It should be noted that the headline does not match up to this particular story because two crashes were reported ion the same article.  The other crash occurred in Maine where one man was lost and another saved.)

The Milwaukee Journal, “Tossed Into Space As Planes Collide, Chute Saves Him”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 1

    

    

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935 

Warwick, Rhode Island     

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard. Today known as T.F. Green State Airport - Warwick, R.I.

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard.
Today known as T.F. Green State Airport – Warwick, R.I.

     On the morning of August 28, 1935, veteran pilot Joshua Crane Jr., 37, began his final approach to a temporary field adjoining Hillsgrove Airport from an altitude of 1500 feet.  Crane was flying a Waco, model YOC, (NC-14621), a four passenger aircraft.   Also aboard was Arthur E. Howe, 26, of Philadelphia.  Both were en-route from Boston to Cleveland, Ohio, and were stopping at Hillsgrove to pick up a third man, Arthur L. Johnson of Cranston. 

    The weather was clear with a southwest wind of 20 miles per hour and gusty.  When the plane had dropped to 500 feet, a gust of wind sent it into a left spin and it plunged to the ground in a small lot on Occupassatuxet Road in Warwick’s Hoxie section, miraculously missing any houses in the area.  (Occupassatuxet Road no longer exists.  It was taken by eminent domain during an airport expansion project.) The impact drove the plane’s motor into the passenger cabin causing severe crushing injuries to both men.   

     Bystanders pulled Crane and Howe from the crumpled wreck and both were transported St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition.  Crane died shortly afterwards, and Howe was reportedly only given a 50-50 chance of survival.   

    The death of Joshua Crane came as a shock to the New England aviation world, for he was regarded as an excellent pilot throughout the region. He began flying after graduating from Harvard University in 1917 at the age of twenty.  At that time, World War I was raging in Europe and he enlisted in the United States Navy as a pilot where he received training at Squantum, Massachusetts, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.  By 1918 he was stationed in England flying anti-submarine patrols trying to prevent German U-boats from attacking convoys.  

     While in England, he met his future wife Dora, and they married in 1920.  

     After leaving the navy, he continued flying in the relatively new sport of air racing where his reputation grew.  Besides racing, he also became involved with several air-passenger service ventures that flew out of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.   By 1930 he had become general manager of Southern New England Airways, Inc., a long defunct service that once flew out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  During the literally thousands of hours he logged in the air, it was estimated that he had transported more than 25,000 passengers.

     In addition to passengers, he also flew humanitarian missions and ferried people for the government.  On one occasion he flew from Boston with a planeload of prisoners destined for the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  Shortly before his death, he had taken Rhode Island’s Governor Theodore Francis Green and a military aide to an army camp in upstate New York to observe war games.  The plane that the governor flew on was the same one that Mr. Crane was piloting the day he crashed. 

     Like many pilots, Crane had his share of “close calls”.  One incident occurred in November of 1930 when a glider he was piloting went down in Pawtucket.  Neither he nor his two passengers were seriously hurt. In April of 1933 his plane loaded with passengers crash landed in southern Rhode Island when the motor lost power, but thankfully those aboard suffered only minor injuries.  Then in July of that same year the landing gear collapsed as he touched down at an airport in Skowhegan, Maine. 

     In February of 1934 he became stranded on an island that he owned known as “No Man’s Land” located about three miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  (Today the island is known as “Normans Land”). On that occasion, he had “nosed-over” on landing and damaged the propeller which forced him to wait until the Coast Guard could bring a new one.   

     The accident which killed Joshua Crane was investigated by the Department of Commerce.  Investigators who examined the wreckage found, “The airplane was so broken up that very little could be learned as to the control system prior to the accident except that all control surfaces were still attached, and the left wing flap was found to be in full down position while the right one was in full up position.  In analyzing this accident, full cognizance was given to the fact that most probably the left wing flap functioned while the right one did not.” 

    This possible malfunction of the flaps, combined with gusty wind conditions, may have led to the crash.  

Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, Joshua Crane Jr., Dead, Passenger Injured In Crash”, August 28, 1935, Page 1.

The Providence Journal, “Joshua Crane, Jr., Fatally Injured As Plane Crashes”, August 29, 1935, Page 1.

Department Of Commerce, Report of the Accident Board 

 

 

Woonsocket R.I. – March 17, 1936

Woonsocket, R.I. – March 17, 1936

    

Plane crash in Woonsocket R.I., Oak Hill Cemetery  March 17, 1936 Woonsocket Call Photo

Plane crash in Woonsocket R.I., Oak Hill Cemetery
March 17, 1936
Woonsocket Call Photo

     On the afternoon of March 17, 1936, Waldemar M. E. Hagberg, 26, of Springfield, Massachusetts, flew two passengers from Springfield to Boston.  He later left Boston Airport at 8:40 p.m. to return to Springfield, and got lost in fog as he neared Worcester.  Realizing his situation, he set down on  the frozen ice on Indian Lake located in northern Worcester, but  afterwards discovered that he couldn’t get to shore due to surrounding water.  He therefore took off again hoping to find Grafton Airport in the neighboring community of Grafton.  Unfortunately the Grafton Airport wasn’t lighted, and Waldemar circled for some time unable to locate it.   He then decided to set a course towards Providence, Rhode Island, but found the weather getting worse the farther south he flew.  As he passed over the City of Woonsocket, he saw the lights below and began looking for a place to land.  After circling for several minutes he saw what appeared to be a clear area.

     The area was dark, which indicated that there were probably no wires from streetlights or buildings, but he couldn’t tell about any trees.  Fearing that he might not find another opportunity, he decided to take a chance and make a landing.   After cutting his motor and turning off his navigation lights to prevent a fire, he nursed his airplane down slowly until the landing gear unexpectedly struck some tree tops.  Waldemar  yanked back on the stick as the plane tore through the branches and came to rest almost nose first. 

     Waldemar was shaken, but not injured.  As he climbed fro the wreck, he discovered that he had crashed in Woonsocket’s Oak Hill Cemetery, which accounted for the trees and lack of lights.   Officers W. L. Cote, and William Brady transported him to Woonsocket Hospital for examination.

     The plane was a Kittyhawk bi-plane with room for a pilot and two passengers.   

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Air Pilot Escapes Injury In Landing In City Cemetery”, March 18, 1936 

 

 

 

Charlestown, R.I. – March 2, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 2, 1945 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field

     Updated July 13, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 11:15 p.m. on March 2, 1945, Lt. (jg.) Kenneth B. McQuady, age 21, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71418,) for a night training flight.  Just after he became airborne, his aircraft was seen to lose altitude and crash on the ice covered water of Charlestown Pond at the end of Runway 22.  Upon impact the belly tank ruptured and caught fire.  The plane bounced another 100 yards before coming to rest.   Lt. McQuady received fatal injuries.

     Lt. McQuady is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Bartow, Florida.

     The propeller from Lieutenant McQuady’s Hellcat was recovered years after his accident and presented to the Quonset Air Museum and made into a memorial. 

    

Quonset Air Museum Memorial to Lt. Jg. Kenneth Bruce McQuady

Description of accident that killed Lt. McQuady

     Unfortunately, since this original posting, the Quonset Air Museum has closed.

     Sources:

     Quonset Air Museum 

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated March 2, 1945

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On December 22, 1940, two aircraft, each flown by student pilots, collided in mid-air directly over Hillsgrove Airport.  One, an Aeronca Cub, flown by Gilbert B. Kornstein, 19, and the other a Taylorcraft, flown by Millard McInnis, 26.   

    The impact broke the tail off the Aeronca, sending it plummeting to the ground killing Kornstein instantly.

     McInnis was able to nurse his damaged plane down, clipping a tree and flipping over in the Norwood section of Warwick, about three miles from the airport.  He required a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from a leg wound, but he survived. 

Source: 

Woonsocket Call, “Young North Smithfield Flier Dies In Mid-Air Crash”, December 23, 1940, Pg. 1  

    

Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

     Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

Warwick, Rhode Island

    

Martin B-10 Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

Martin B-10 Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the beginning of September, 1936, members of the U.S. Army 99th Bombardment Squadron came to Hillsgrove Airport for two weeks of training.  On the evening of September 21st, three B-10 Bombers took off a night training mission.  Shortly afterwards, heavy fog settled over the area, and when the planes returned the pilots were given instructions via radio on how to land.

     The first bomber to attempt a landing overshot the runway, and according to witnesses, its wheels almost touched down before the pilot gunned the engines for another attempt.  Due to the heavy fog, the pilot evidently didn’t realize how close he was to the end of the runway, and the plane plowed into a patch of woods, broke apart, and caught fire.  All three crewmen aboard died as a result of the crash.   

     The other two planes left the area and landed at Boston and Albany, New York.    

     The crew were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lieut. Jack J. Neely, 25, of Hempstead, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Texas, but death records state Hempstead.)  

     Corporal Angelo Mazzaco, 26, of Long Branch, N.J., died at the scene. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Jersey City, N.J., but death records state Long Branch.)

     Private Thaddeus Macaziewski, 28, of Schenectady, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  (Newspaper accounts identify him as Joseph, J., but Providence death records list him as Thaddeus.)     

     Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Tragic Hillsgrove Accident Subject Of Two Inquiries”, September 22, 1936, Pg. 1

City of Providence, R. I. death records.

City of Warwick, R.I. death records.

       

    

    

 

 

 

North Smithfield, R.I. – June 29, 1934

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – June 29, 1934

Montgomery Airport

     On June 29, 1934, Lieutenant Malcolm Stewart (U.S. Army)  left Boston in a Douglas bi-plane bound for Montgomery Airport in North Smithfield to pick up Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, who was to fly the plane back to Boston for tactical flight training.  As Stewart was coming in to land, he overshot the field, and just as the wheels touched down he gunned the engine for another try, but there wasn’t enough open space to gain altitude.  The plane crashed into a stone wall and a cusp of trees at the end of the field.  Stewart was saved from serious injury by his safety belt.      

     Montgomery Airport was located in the Waterford section of the town of North Smithfield, east of the Blackstone River, and north of present-day Route 146. Information gleaned from old Department of Commerce maps indicates the airport was in use only a short time beginning in the early 1930s, and was closed by 1936.  

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Local Airport Is Visited By Three Big Army Planes”, June 30, 1934, Pg. 1

Block Island, R.I. – August 27, 1931

Block Island, R. I. – August 27, 1931

     Very little information is available about this accident.  On the afternoon of August 27, 1931, Evald Lundberg, a.k.a. Gottfred E. Lundberg, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, was burned to death when his airplane crashed on Block Island after his engine failed.

     For those that don’t know, Block Island is three miles off the coast of Rhode Island. 

Source: New York Times, “Flier Dies In Block Island Crash”, August 28, 1931.     

Newport, R.I. – July 20, 1923

Newport, R.I. – July 20, 1923

Updated January 9, 2016

     On July 20, 1923, a plane belonging to the New York – Newport Air Line (Service) was making a flight from New York City to Newport, Rhode Island, with a pilot and two passengers aboard, when it crashed at Newport.  The aircraft, named Fleet Wing, suddenly fell from an altitude of 75 feet while making a sharp turn in preparation for a water landing.  The plane plunged into the water and flipped over, and all three men were ejected by the impact. 

     The most seriously injured was H. Cary Morgan, who suffered a compound fracture to his leg.  He was transported to Newport Naval Hospital where it was determined that his leg was too badly mangled to be saved, and amputation was necessary.  A pint-and-a-half of blood was donated by Pharmacists Mate 3C William J. Majeski of Meriden, Connecticut.  Unfortunately, complications set in, and Mr. Morgan passed away.

     The pilot, H.H. Thorburn, and the other passenger, Henry Fowler, survived the crash with minor injuries.

     The terminal for the airline was close to the Newport Naval Station.  When the accident occurred, help from the station arrived quickly.  The heavily damaged plane was towed to shore by two navy boats.   

     The airline also had another plane in its fleet, the Gray Lark, which had arrived a few minutes before the accident.   

     Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Newport Line Plane Upsets As It Lands”, July 21, 1923, Pg. 9

Woonsocket Call, “H. Cary Morgan Dead Following Accident”, July 24, 1923, Pg. 1

Meriden Morning Record, “Meriden Boy Gives His Blood In Vain”, July 30, 1923       

New York Times, “Air Liner Crashes In Newport Landing”, July 21, 1923  

        

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Warwick, Rhode Island

 Hillsgrove Airfield is now T. F. Green State Airport

    

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922. Library Of Congress Photo

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922.
Library Of Congress Photo

     On May 26, 1927, navy Lieutenants Adolphus W. Gorton and Clifton Sprague were scheduled to fly from Hillsgrove Airfield in Warwick, Rhode Island, to Washington, D.C..  The plane took off with Gorton at the helm, and when the aircraft was barely 100 feet off the ground it suddenly looped in a circle and struck the top of thirty-foot tree near the end of the field.  After glancing off the tree, the aircraft plunged downward into the ground, plowing the turf for thirty-five feet before coming to rest in a heap of wreckage. 

     Lieutenant Sprague escaped with minor injuries, but Gorton suffered the loss of three teeth and his nose was reportedly “torn nearly from his face”.   The crash was witnessed by Lieutenant Gorton’s mother who had gone to the airfield to see him off.   Gorton later recovered rom his injuries.

     Lt. Adolphus Worthington Gorton was born in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, on January 29, 1897, the son of Charles A. Gorton Jr..  After attending Dartmouth College for one year, he entered the American Ambulance Service shortly before the United States entered WWI, and served in France.  Seven months later he was operated on for appendicitis and was sent home.  After his recovery, he transferred to the naval air service and began pilot training.  

     As a naval pilot, he distinguished himself in may ways throughout his career.  A few examples include:

     On October 8, 1922 he won the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy in Detroit, Michigan for attaining an average speed of 112.6 mph.  The trophy was sterling silver worth at the time to be $5,000.  

     On August 8, 1923, he broke two aviation speed records in one day flying a U. S. Navy NW-2 over the Delaware River at 177.5 mph, and then 185.5 mph respectively.   

     On July 3, 1929, Gorton successfully “docked” his aircraft while in flight to the airship USS Los Angeles. 

     Gorton died September 28, 1989 in Florida at the age of 92.   

Sources:

New York Times, “Lieut. Gorton Wins Air Race”, October 9, 1922 

Providence Journal, “Lieut. Gorton Hurt As Plane Crashes”, May 27, 1924, Pg. 1

 

 

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

One mile northeast off Quonset Point Naval Air Station

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On February 10, 1945, Ensign Pierce Hubert Beach, 22, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in an F6F-5N Hellcat (Bu. No. 58058) for a routine training flight where he and other aircraft were to practice carrier landings and takeoffs.  He was killed when his plane crashed into Narragansett Bay.  

     Ensign Beach earned his pilots wings at Pensacola, Florida, in May of 1944, and was married in June, ’44.   

     Sources:

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Navy Pilot Killed; Another Missing”, February 12, 1945, Pg. 1

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian & Archeologist

     The (Bunnell Florida) Flagler Tribune, (no headline) February 15, 1945

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 10, 1945

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

             

Glocester, R.I. – January 17, 1966

Glocester, R.I. – January 17, 1966

     On January 17, 1966, a single-engine Beechcraft T-34 took off from North Central Airport in Smithfield en-route to upstate New York.   Shortly after take off, the pilot noticed the oil pressure dropping rapidly.  After declaring an emergency, he attempted to return to North Central, but then the engine began to skip and sputter before it stopped completely.  The pilot was forced to set the plane down in an open field on the farm of Kenneth Clemence, located on Tarklin Road near the Glocester/Smithfield town line.   

     The plane skidded about 40 yards across the field up a slight incline before coming to rest against a stone wall.  Damage was minor, and the pilot, Airman 1c William J. Fornes, 26, and his passenger, Airman 1c Richard L. Berube, 20, both of Griffiss Air Force base in Rome, New York, were unhurt.  The plane was a civilian aircraft belonging to a flying-club at Griffiss.  

Source: Providence Journal, “Plane’s Forced Landing Probed”, January 18, 1966, Pg. 31

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

 

 

 

Newport, RI – July 2, 1928

Newport, Rhode Island – July 2, 1928 

     On July 2, 1928, Commander Thalbert N. Alford, USN, was piloting a Vought O2U Corsair over Newport Harbor.  Lieutenant Commander William Butler Jr. was aboard as an observer. 

     Commander Alford was doing some stunt flying, going through a series of loops and rolls 5000 feet over Newport, to the delight of onlookers on the ground.   After the plane made three successive loops, it suddenly went into a spinning dive and slammed nose first into the water. Butler managed to free himself and floated to the surface, but Commander Alford went down with the aircraft. 

     Crewmen from several nearby naval vessels immediately launched boats and raced towards the scene. The first to arrive was a boat from the U.S.S. Antares with the ship’s doctor aboard. 

     Lieutenant Commander Butler was plucked from the water and rushed to Newport Naval Hospital where he died shortly afterwards.  His injuries were severe, but he reportedly maintained consciousness up until about five minutes before his death.  At his bedside were his wife Adelle, and three officers from the U.S.S. Wright who would later make up the board of inquest. At one point he told the men, “They should not allow such planes to be used for stunting.”

      Meanwhile recovery efforts for the aircraft and the body of Commander Alford were taking place. The navy tug Bob-o-link successfully hauled the plane to the surface.  Commander Alford was found still strapped in the cockpit, dead from the crushing force of the impact and not from drowning.  

     Commander Alford was born in Wills Point, Texas, October 26, 1888, and entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1905, shortly before his 17th birthday. 

     During World War I he earned the Navy Cross while serving overseas as commanding officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Nicholson.  After the war he served in Washington, D.C. with the Bureau of Engineering, later transferring to the Naval Communications Office. 

     He earned his wings as a navy pilot in August of 1927, less than one year before the accident.   

     Lieutenant Commander Butler was born October 2, 1896 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and was 31-years-old at the time of his death.  He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1920, and earned his pilots wings December 21, 1926.

     The Corsair involved in the accident was assigned to Lieutenant Commander Butler, who at the time was serving aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Concord.  On the day of the crash, the Concord was away at sea, and both the plane and Lieutenant Commander Butler had been detailed to Gould Island.   

Source:

Providence Journal “Navy Fliers Fall To Death In Bay”, July 3, 1928, Page 1

 

North Kingstown, R.I. – May 18, 1957

North Kingstown, R.I. – May 18, 1957

Quonset Point NAS

      Saturday, May 18, 1957, was Armed Services Day at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and as part of the day’s observance, the Navy was hosting an air show which included flight exhibitions by some of the newest aircraft.         

     Shortly before 2:30 that afternoon, an FJ-3 Fury piloted by Navy Lieutenant Raymond C. Shaw Jr. took off for what was to be another routine demonstration flight.  Once airborne, he circled over Narragansett Bay before coming in low over the runway and whizzing past the waving crowds.  Once clear of the runway, he pulled upwards to the north where he suddenly went into a spin and dropped from sight.  Almost immediately a distant boom was heard followed by a rising pall of black smoke a little more than a mile away. 

     The jet crashed at the Davisville Seabee Station just off Fletcher Road in North Kingstown.  After ripping through a clump of trees it plowed through a fence and onto the property of Elmer Norden where it exploded.  Debris was hurled in all directions for 400 yards, and nearby trees were impaled with flying shrapnel. 

     The Fury’s supercharger and other debris came down on the property of Ralph B. Armstrong who was working in his yard at the time, but he wasn’t injured.

     Firefighters from Quonset NAS and North Kingstown raced to the scene and put of the flames. Ironically, the base fire department was scheduled to give a fire fighting demonstration later in the day. 

     Navy investigators concluded the crash was due to the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer breaking loose during flight.  It was found about a mile short of the crash site along the path the aircraft had traveled.     

     Lieutenant Shaw, 27, was from Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated Central High School in Charlotte, and went on to attend Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, and Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.  After graduating in 1952, he enlisted in the Navy and became a pilot.  He worked hard and had recently been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant before the crash.

     Besides his parents, he was survived by his wife Rita and a 3-year-old son, Raymond III.  His funeral was held at Plaza Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.

      The FJ-3 Fury was produced by North American Aviation as a Navy version of the Air Force’s F-86E Sabre, to be a carrier-borne fighter jet.   Production was halted in May of 1958 as newer and more technological advanced aircraft came into service.    

Sources:

The Providence Journal, Quonset Navy Pilot Killed As Jet Fighter Crashes, Explodes in Davisville”, May 19, 1957, Pg. A1

The Charlotte Observer,  “Jet Explodes In Air, Killing Charlottean”, May 19, 1957, Pg. 1

The Charlotte Observer,Shaw Funeral Here Thursday”,May 22, 1957, Page 5A

The Charlotte Observer, Funeral Notice, May 23, 1957, Pg. 11A

 

Jack McGee – Early Daredevil Of The Rhode Island Skies

Jack McGee –  Early Daredevil Of The Rhode Island Skies 

By Jim Ignasher 

 

John Francis McGee Pawtucket Historical Society Photo

John Francis McGee
Photo credit: Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center, Pawtucket Library

     It was the Wright Brothers who set the standard for what a mechanically powered aircraft should look like, and each subsequent builder copied their basic design.   Early airplanes were flimsy compared to what came later, jokingly held together with bubble gum and bailing wire; home built products manufactured in barns, (or bicycle shops) and not in hi-tech factories.  Some actually flew; many did not; and those that could, didn’t always stay in the air.  Accidents were common, but that didn’t deter young men like Pawtucket’s Jack McGee from climbing into one of those “newfangled flying contraptions” and taking to the sky.  

     John Francis McGee was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on June 18, 1885.  One could say he was born at just the right time in history to make his mark as an aviator, for he witnessed the dawn of mechanical flight; a time when there were no manuals, no regulations, and safety was a matter of perspective.  It was an era when daring young men made up the rules as they went along while at the same time teaching themselves how to fly.

     When he was four, Jack’s father moved the family to Maine, but they returned to settle in Pawtucket in 1900.  In his youth, Jack worked in a machine shop which gave him valuable experience with engines that would come in handy later on while working on his airplanes. 

     Jack’s interest in mechanics led to an interest in automobiles, which led to his learning how to drive one.  This acquired skill eventually landed him a chauffeur’s job with J. C. McCoy of Barrington.  Mr. McCoy was an aviator in his own right, and in the spring of 1911 he had Jack drive him to an air show in Massachusetts.  It was there that McGee decided he wanted to fly.       

     After borrowing money from a friend, McGee enrolled in the Atwood Aviation School in Cliftondale, (Saugus) Massachusetts.  He was a quick study, and flew at the controls, with an instructor aboard, after only three flights. 

     There were no pilot licensing standards or requirements in those days for there were no state or federal regulatory agencies that required one.  It was up to the student, with input from his instructor, to determine for himself when he had enough experience to fly alone. Most students took the matter under serious consideration, for aircraft technology was still in the developmental stages, and one mistake in the air could mean a messy end on the ground.  McGee continued taking lessons when he could afford them, finally making his first solo flight on August 18, 1912.     

Jack McGee in his "Kite"  Pawtucket (RI) Historical Society Photo

Jack McGee in his “Kite”
Photo credit: Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center, Pawtucket Library

     It was also in 1912 that McGee purchased his first airplane, a Burgess-Wright bi-plane, for the princely sum of $3,050, which he affectionately called “The Kite”.  The name resembled the aircraft’s construction; wood, wires, and canvas, powered by a small smoke belching, oil-spitting, engine.  The aircraft was primitive by today’s standards, and its seemingly flimsy construction left many wondering how Jack was able to perform such daring feats with it and still live. Yet as rickety as it was, those who could afford it, quickly lined up to pay for a short ride.

      McGee briefly teamed up with another promising young aviator by the name of Farnum T. Fish who had participated in air shows in the western United States. It was while flying with Fish on the afternoon of July 9, 1912, over Revere Beach, Massachusetts, that McGee experienced what was to be the first of thirteen plane crashes that he would survive during his career.  On that day, while Fish was passing low over the water, a wing dipped sending the craft into the surf.

     Jack asked his friend, Pawtucket businessman Joseph Boyle, to be his manager, and Boyle did such an excellent job of promotion that crowds estimated to be as large as fifty-thousand people would come to watch McGee perform his stunts.  Yet despite the large crowds, the money was slow to roll in.  There were operational expenses and loans to pay off, and McGee often went without food so he could feed his passion for flying.  

     In August of 1912, Boyle got McGee a $1,000 contract to fly from Saugus, Massachusetts, to Newport, Rhode Island, to perform stunts for the Newport Beach Association.  The flight and exhibition were scheduled for August 25th. 

     However, things began to go awry when McGee left Saugus and ran into strong winds which blew his tiny airplane out over Boston Harbor and towards the sea.  Its engine was no match against Mother Nature, and had the wind not shifted he could have been a goner.  He managed to set down on a race track in Boston and contacted Boyle in Newport with the news that he wasn’t going to make it that day.  The news was disappointing to say the least, for not only were thousands awaiting McGee in Newport, thousands more were waiting in Pawtucket because Boyle had promised Jack would stop in that city on his way to Newport.  Boyle was left with only one option; postpone the events by one day and drive to Boston to help Jack prepare for another flight. 

     Jack took off from Boston the following morning, but when he arrived over Pawtucket he found the city shrouded in fog.  One of the few visual landmarks available to him was the smokestack of the Hand Brewery, next to which he knew was a relatively flat section of land where he could set down.  In the meantime, Boyle returned to Newport and explained that Jack’s arrival would be delayed yet another day.    

McGee's Wrecked Airplane Pawtucket Historical Society Photo

McGee’s Wrecked Airplane
Photo credit: Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center, Pawtucket Library

     The following morning a large crowed gathered to see McGee off, but more bad luck stymied his trip when he crashed into a tree on takeoff because someone had left a baby carriage in his path. McGee escaped without injury, but the right wing was damaged further preventing his departure to Newport.

     McGee didn’t have the funds to repair his airplane, and without it, he couldn’t full-fill his contract.  When news of his predicament spread, the good citizens of Pawtucket came to his rescue by taking up a collection.  With the wing repaired, McGee was once again on his way to Newport. 

     In Newport, Jack was invited to attend an exclusive party held by Mrs. Belmont on Easton’s Beach.  Jack graciously accepted and presented Mrs. Belmont with a yellow banner that read, “Votes For Women”.  (At that time, Mrs. Belmont was a leader in the fight for women’s voting rights.)  The publicity from Jack’s frustrating trip to Newport, and subsequent high society party invitation gained him national publicity. 

     After Newport, he embarked on an exhibition tour around Rhode Island giving shows at places like Crescent Park, Rocky Point, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket.  His “headquarters” was located in a special hangar at the Pawtucket Driving Park off Newport Avenue.  It was here that he survived yet another crash which put his plane out of commission for several days.  

     In all, McGee survived thirteen crashes during his career and was once quoted as saying, “It is a general belief among aviators that, if they remain in the flying game long enough, they will eventually be killed.  I know that I will be killed some day if I fly too long.”  But crashing wasn’t his only worry.  On September 3, 1912, he and his airplane were shot at by an irate hunter while passing over some woods in Danbury, Connecticut.  The bullet barely missed him as it embedded itself in the plane’s control panel.    

Early Post Card View Of Fort Adams

Early Post Card View Of Fort Adams

     The day before that incident, McGee had gone to Newport to prove a point to the military men stationed at Fort Adams and the naval torpedo station on Goat Island that they were vulnerable to aerial attack by airplanes. McGee was a visionary who foresaw a time when aircraft would have practical military applications, an idea that was slow to be accepted by the armed forces, who saw the airplane as nothing more than a toy for the wealthy and the foolish.  This notion by the military was not completely without merit, for World War I was still two years away, and the unreliability of pre-war aircraft, coupled with the high mortality rate of pilots, led many to feel that airplanes were nothing more than a passing fad.

 

Early Post Card View Of The U.S. Navy Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.

Early Post Card View Of The U.S. Navy Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.

     On the morning of September 2, 1912, McGee took off with bags of flour to drop as “bombs” over his intended targets.  McGee knew what he was doing for he had taken part in bomb dropping contests at air meets in Massachusetts, reportedly winning prizes for his accuracy.  As he came in high over Fort Adams he let a few bags fall.  When they struck the parade ground and parapets they burst apart in simulated blasts.  Attached to each bag was a note: “What if this were 16 percent nitroglycerine?”  He did the same at the naval torpedo station, and fortunately no irate soldiers took pot-shots at him. Naturally military commanders weren’t pleased with the stunt, but McGee had proven his point.  

     McGee was flying in an age when aviation records for speed, distance, altitude, and endurance, were constantly being set and broken. The ultimate achievement for any aviator of that era would be to fly across the Atlantic, something that had never been done before.  Doing so was easier said than done, for aviation technology hadn’t yet reached the point where making such a trip had any real chance of success.  Despite any limitations with his aircraft, in May of 1913, McGee announced his plans to try.  It wasn’t just a place in the history books that he was after, it was the $50,000 purse offered by the British Aero Club to the first aviator(s) who could do it.  Fifty-thousand dollars in 1913 was a fortune, and certainly would have secured McGee’s financial situation for life.      

Pawtucket, Rhode Island - As Jack McGee Saw It.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island – As Jack McGee Saw It.

     McGee’s plan called for naval vessels to be spaced a few hundred miles apart all across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to England to act as refueling stations for his pontoon equipped airplane.  It seemed simple enough in theory, and he set his departure date for July 4, 1913.  

    Of course executing such a plan would require money, and lots of it, as well as an incredible amount of logistical planning and cooperation by the U.S. Navy and any other foreign vessels involved.  It is perhaps for this reason that investors were reluctant to put money towards the project forcing McGee to cancel his plans. 

     On July 28, 1913, McGee and a companion survived another accident, this time splashing down in the middle of Narragansett Bay.  The plane sank beneath the waves and soon afterwards a reward was posted to anyone who recovered it. 

     More than a few rose to the challenge, for besides the reward, there was the publicity, but in the days before underwater sonar, locating it would be purely a matter of luck. The aircraft was finally located and recovered by accident on August 10th by a boat dragging for oysters.

     McGee’s fame was a lure for souvenir hunters who eagerly sought artifacts from his wrecked airplanes.  Several artifacts ranging from propellers to wing struts connected with McGee’s planes are known to have survived to this day and are in the hands of private collectors.

      Though he himself flew, McGee tried to discourage those he cared about from following in his footsteps.  One such person was his good friend Leo Leeburn, to whom McGee had given basic flight training.  Mr. Leeburn later went on to join the Army as a flight instructor during World War I, and served as an airbase commander in World War II, eventually reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

     Another friend was Henry Connors, who went on to command the Rhode Island National Guard.  One day he and McGee raced from Rumford to Crescent Park, Connors in his automobile, and Jack in his airplane – Jack won.         

Rocky Point Park, Warwick, R.I. - A once popular destination.  McGee and other early aviators flew their planes here.

Rocky Point Park, Warwick, R.I. – A once popular destination. McGee and other early aviators flew their planes here.

      In 1914, Jack purchased a seaplane capable of traveling 70 mph. In May of that year, he was paired with a man who was to parachute from his airplane at an exhibition at Rocky Point. The plan was for the man to ride on one of the plane’s pontoons until they reached an altitude of about 3,500 feet. Unfortunately, the man weighed too much and McGee was unable to take off.  After several unsuccessful attempts, 17-year-old John Downey of Providence approached McGee and offered to perform the stunt.  At first McGee declined, but the youth insisted, so a contract was hastily drawn up which the boy took to his father to sign.  For never having any formal instruction in leaping with a parachute, Downey reportedly performed admirably, and even returned for an encore performance the following day.      

     It was also in 1914 that World War I broke out in Europe, and Jack was courted by the French Government to join their military aviation corps to instruct their pilots, but he declined their offer.

     One news snippet which appeared in a magazine known as Aerial Age, on March 22, 1915, stated that McGee had been selected by B. Stephens & Sons of Providence, R. I., “to exclusively fly its hydro-areoplane, the first machine of the kind ever made by a Rhode Island concern which has the added distinction of being driven by the first 12-cylinder air-cooled marine engine ever made in America.”  The company was located at Fields Point.  

     In the summer of 1917 McGee accepted a position as a test pilot for Gallaudet Aircraft Corporation of Warwick, Rhode Island.  By now, America had entered the war and the Navy had given Gallaudet a contract to build seaplanes for the war effort.     

Jack McGee's Grave - Mount St. Mary's Cemetery,  Pawtucket, R.I.

Jack McGee’s Grave – Mount St. Mary’s Cemetery,
Pawtucket, R.I.

     The job of a test pilot is a dangerous one.  Those who designed the planes had a theoretical knowledge of what the craft’s capabilities might be, but it was the test pilot’s job to make sure they were right, and to see if it was capable of doing more. 

      On June 11, 1918, while testing one of Gallaudet’s planes on Greenwich Bay, the aircraft suddenly nosed over in the water.  Those who witnessed the event reported an explosion just after the impact, but officials later denied that an explosion had occurred. In any event, McGee was trapped in the overturned wreckage and drowned.  He was 33.

     Jack was survived by his wife of less than six months, Miss H. Louise Morris of Pawtucket.          

     Jack’s prediction that he would eventually die in an airplane accident proved prophetic, but some might say it was inevitable.  During his seven year career he performed hundreds of aerial feats that had killed lesser pilots, and had cheated death in at least thirteen crashes.  Over the years, and there have been several attempts to have a permanent memorial erected to his honor, including the naming of a state airport, but unfortunately all efforts have been unsuccessful. 

     Update: Today a bronze plaque to McGee’s achievements is located at the entrance to Slater Park in Pawtucket.

 

 

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971  

       

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall's F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum. Photo by Jim Ignasher

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall’s F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum.
Photo by Jim Ignasher

     On June 4, 1971, an F-4J Phantom jet (#153082) belonging to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team, caught fire in flight over Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  The pilot, Commander Harley H. Hall aimed the plane towards Narraganset Bay before bailing out.

     Hall was commanding officer of the Blue Angels for two years.  He was promoted to the rank of Commander at the age of 32, which at the time made him the youngest Commander in the navy. 

     By 1973, Hall was serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) flying combat missions over Vietnam.   On January 27, 1973, Commander Hall and Lt. Cmdr. Phillip A. Kientzler took off from the Enterprise in an F-4J Phantom to attack Vietnamese supplies and logistics vehicles 15 miles northwest of Quang Tri.  During the attack the Phantom was hit by anti-aircraft fire and Hall and Kientzler were forced to bail out at 4,000 feet.  On the way down, Kientzler was shot in the leg and quickly captured.  Hall landed safely, and was last observed by another F-4 pilot circling overhead entering the jungle to evade enemy forces.  He was never seen again.    

     In Vancouver, Washington, there is a building named in Commander Hall’s memory.  The H. H. Hall Building located at 10000 NE 7th Avenue.  (www.hhhallbuiding.com)

    There is also a book about Harley Hall and the Blue Angles titled “Left Alive To Die”, by Susan Keen, c. 2011      

      Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Pilot Killed In Accident At Air Show”, June 7, 1971, Pg. 3.  The headline of this article is actually about an accident at the Quonset Air Show that took the life of J. W. “Bill” Fornof on June 5, 1971.  The accident involving the Blue Angel aircraft was mentioned in it because it happened the day before.       

     The Columbian, “Cmdr. Harley Hall, Shot Down 40 Years Ago”, January 27, 2013 

     www.pownetwork.org/bios/

 

 

Quonset Point, R.I. – June 5, 1971

Quonset Point, R.I. – June 5, 1971

     On June 5, 1971, the annual Quonset Air Show, a.k.a. Rhode Island Air Show, was being held at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  The second to last portion of the show that day included an aerobatic exposition of two former U.S. Navy F8F Bearcat aircraft flown by a father and son team.   Ten minutes into the exhibition, the wing of one aircraft, (N7700C) piloted by J. W. “Bill” Fornof, suddenly broke away.  The aircraft crashed in a wooded area on Quidnesset Road, about 1.5 miles from the base.   Mr. Fornof, 46, of Houma, Louisiana, was killed.

    His son, J. W. “Corkey” Fornof, flying the other Bearcat was not injured.    

    Investigators blamed the wing failure on metal fatigue.

    Mr. Fornof earned his wings as a navy pilot at the age of 19 in 1945, and served in both WWII and Korea.   

    For more information about J. W. “Bill” Fornof, and a photo of his aircraft, see “Bill Fornof Memorial – Chapter 513 Houma, LA”, at www.513.eaachapter.org/billfornofmemorial.htm 

    Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Pilot Killed In Accident At Air Show”, June 7, 1971, Pg. 3

    (Lafourche Parish, Louisiana) Daily Comet, ” Courier Reports On Death Of Local Aviator”, By Bill Ellzey, June 8, 2011.

     U.S. Navy & U.S. Marine Corps BuNos, www.joebaugher.com

    

North Smithfield, RI – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of five U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from New Haven, Connecticut, when one piloted by Lieutenant Robert O’Brien developed engine trouble.  The plane was equipped with two gas tanks, and when the first was almost empty, O’Brien opened the fuel supply line from the second, but discovered that the line was clogged.  Almost immediately the engine began sputtering and then stopped, leaving O’Brien with no choice but to make an emergency landing.

     Looking down he saw the old Woonsocket Trotting Park, but noted there was a football game in progress on the field, so he aimed the plane for a nearby farm.  The farm belonged to George Wright, on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, and is still in operation today.   

     As the plane came in to land, the wheels caught the top of a fence which sent it crashing nose first into the sod.    The aircraft was badly damaged, but O’Brien and his civilian passenger, Robert Wise, were uninjured.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Two Escape Injury When Plane Crashes”, November 26, 1928, Pg. 1

        

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

70 miles south-east of Block island

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of November 20, 1952, a two navy P2V Neptunes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station were taking part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise off Block Island with the submarine USS Piper, (SS-409), and the navy tug, USS Hopi, (AFT-71). 

     Shortly after 4:00 a.m. the two planes rendezvoused over the Jamestown Bridge in Narragansett Bay, and headed for the operational area about 70 miles off Block Island.  One planes was piloted by Lieut. Alvin S. Hibbs, and the other by Lt. Cmdr. Noble R. Kean. (Bu. No. 124242) 

     Hibbs later told investigators, “Commander Kean was behind me a mile or so, and we carried on radio chit-chat.  He said all the other men were in very high spirits over the radio.  We arrived at the operating area a half hour later and circled for awhile, and then endeavored to make radar contact with out target.  There were two targets visible by radar, and I investigated on while Commander Kean investigated the other.” 

     Hibbs found his “target” and after making two “runs” on it he tried to contact Kean by radio, but couldn’t.  Then the submarine and tug tried to make contact and were unsuccessful.

     Hibbs flew over Kean’s last known position and found two smoke lights and debris on the water’s surface. The smoke lights had apparently broken free of the wreck and were automatically activated.   The tug arrived in the area and collected some of the debris, but found no sign of the crew.  

     One of the last to see the missing aircraft was Lieut. Herbert C. Taft, who was aboard the submarine Piper when Kean’s Neptune passed over.  “I observed the aircraft going across our bow on his run. I observed no malfunctioning of the aircraft and received no notification by radio that anything was wrong.  I followed his flight out for approximately four or five miles.” 

     At that point the lights on the Neptune,  “indicated it was making a right banking turn.”     

     “Shortly thereafter”, Taft went on, “we heard a dull thud.  Because there was no indication of an explosion and no flash, this particular noise worried me, so I went below and tried to contact the aircraft to no avail.”

     The cause of the crash could not be determined.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Comdr. Noble R. Kean, 34, a native of Evanston, Ill. He was survived by his wife Sarah.

     Lt. Thomas J. Tiernan, 28, of Wickford, R.I.

     Aviation Mechanic 2c John R. Quirk, 27, of Lavelle, Penn. He was married just twelve days earlier on November 8, to Miss Constance Lussier of West Warwick, R.I.

     Aviation Ordnance Man 2c George A. Buehler, 22, of Nekoosa, Wis. He too was recently married on October 4 to Miss Irene Carvalho of West Warwick.

     Lt. Seymour A. Moyl, 26, of Bronx, N.Y.

     Aviation Electronics Man 1c Roland O. Eades, 29, of Indiana.

     Seaman Salvatore A. Coia, 21, of Rome, N.Y.

     Seaman Joseph A. gray, 20, Bronx, N.Y.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Bomber Plunges Into Atlantic Off Block Island”, November 21, 1952, Pg. 1

     Providence Journal, “Quonset pilot Described Crash As Observed From Submarine”, November 21, 1952 

       

        

         

 

         

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 4, 1951, a navy P2v-3 Neptune, (Bu. No. 122978) took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station with seven men aboard to take part in an exercise with a submarine in the waters between Block Island and Montauk Point, Long Island, N.Y.  

     According to one eyewitness account, “The plane showed evidence of being in distress.  Then it suddenly plunged, struck the water and exploded.” 

  

      The plane was assigned to Patrol Squadron 5, (VP-5) tasked with locating submarines using sophisticated electronics.

     The plane crashed about 30 miles east of Montauk Point. (71-42W, 40-30N) 

     The cause of the accident was not determined.  All seven men aboard were killed.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Cmdr. Jerome J. Rossillion, 32, Jacksonville NAS.

     Lt. Herschell B. Thorpe, 30, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Technician Charles G. Chapman, 21, Malden, Mass. 

     Chief Aviation Machinist Charles L. Cook, 32, Yukon, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Ralph R. Maxfield, 29, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Frank M. Roeder Jr., 21, St. Louis, Mo.

     Aviation Ordinance Man Kenneth G. Peterson, 26, Jacksonville, Fla.   

     According to naval authorities, the plane had been at Quonset for two weeks, and had left about an hour before the accident.

     Source: Pawtucket Times, “Quonset Plane Crashes, 7 Die” September 5, 1951, Pg. 1

Warwick, R.I. – September 21, 1985

Warwick, Rhode Island – September 21, 1985

     On September 21, 1985, a Beech V35B, (N5NG), with a husband and wife aboard took off from Worcester, Massachusetts.  While over the Providence metropolitan area, approximately 12 miles away from T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, the pilot radioed he was having trouble with the engine and requested clearance to land.  The pilot was given vectors to T.F. Greene, but on his approach, the aircraft lost power and crashed into the Jersey barrier of the northbound lanes of Interstate Route 95, about a tenth of a mile south of Exit 15.  Both were killed.  

     Miraculously, no vehicles on the highway were involved in the accident.    

     The cause of the crash was determined to be a failure of the engine crankshaft from fatigue.  

     Source:

     NTSB – NYC85FA244, microfiche # 29832

     Woonsocket Call, “Crash Of Small Plane On I-95 Claims Lives Of Worcester Couple”, September 22, 1985

Narragansett, RI – August 9, 1914

Narragansett, Rhode Island – August 9, 1914

     On August 9, 1914, aviator Harry M. Jones was seriously injured when he crashed his airplane in the Narrow River in Narragansett.  No further details were given.

Source: New York Times, “Narragansett Flier Hurt”, August 10, 1914

     Jones was famous for landing his airplane on the Boston Common on January 2, 1913, to collect a cash prize offered by a Boston newspaper to the first person to do it. Unfortunately the newspaper had rescinded the offer two days earlier. 

Update June 19, 2016

     Jones was involved in an earlier crash on May 25, 1913, when he crashed into Narragansett Bay while giving an exhibition at a baseball game.. For details, see elsewhere on this website under Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents. 

        

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