Newport Harbor, R.I. – December 11, 1986

Newport Harbor, Rhode Island – December 11, 1986

     On the evening of December 11, 1986, a Bell Ranger helicopter took off from Newport, R.I. bound for Cranston, R.I., with a lone pilot aboard.  Heavy wet snow was falling at the time, but the pilot was a veteran aviator.  As the helicopter was passing over Newport Harbor it suddenly fell into the water and turned upside down, but was kept afloat by its two pontoons.  The pilot was able to free himself and climb atop one of the pontoons, but he was now soaking wet and in danger of dying of exposure.    

     As luck would have it, Petty Officer Larry Fletcher was on duty at the Navy’s Stillwater Basin docks a short distance away, and shortly after the crash he stepped outside to get his coat.  It was then he heard faint cries for help coming from across the water, but couldn’t see anything due to the swirling snow and darkness of the night.      

     Fletcher then notified William Myers, a civilian boat engineer working in the area, and the two of them took a navy boat out into the harbor to search for the source of the cries.   A short time later they came upon the helicopter pilot atop one of the pontoons.

     After being taken aboard the navy vessel the pilot was placed next to the heater and given a coat and hat to put on.  Once ashore he was transported to the Newport Naval Hospital to be examined.

     Source: Providence Journal-Evening Bulletin, “Cranston Copter Pilot Plucked From Newport Harbor”, December 12, 1986, page A2           


West Greenwich, R.I. – May 22, 1976

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 22, 1976  

     At about noon time on May 22, 1976, a helicopter carrying Rhode Island’s Governor Phillip Noel, and a pilot, Thomas Shortall, left T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, and landed at the Warwick Mall about three miles away.  At 12:15 p.m., the helicopter took off again bound for the Alton Jones Campus of the University of Rhode Island, located in West Greenwich, where the Governor was scheduled to address the American Federation of Teachers. 

     The helicopter was scheduled to land in a hay field on the campus, where a police car awaited to transport the Governor to his scheduled talk.  As the helicopter was making its final approach at an altitude of about 200 feet, it suddenly lost the tail rotor and fell into the woods surrounding the field.  

      Both the Governor and Mr. Shortall were admitted to Kent County Hospital in Warwick, with non-life-threatening injuries.   The helicopter was wrecked.


     (Del.) Wilmington Sate-News, “Rhode Island Governor Hurt In Copter Crash”, May 23, 1976 

     (Ct.) The Day, “Governor Noel, Pilot Suffer Injuries In Helicopter Crash”, May 24, 1976

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 


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