Denver, CO Stunt Plane Crash, Jul 1923




Pilots Performed Thrilling Stunts Before Fatal Dive.

Denver. -- BERT COLE, daredevil Denver aviator, and GEORGE LAWLEY, dauntless parachute jumper, fell 3,000 feet to their death at Twelfth avenue and Forest street.

In a cloudless sky, golden with the rays of the setting sun, Denver 3,000 feet below, they "stunted" in COLE'S airplane.

As they skimmed the skies, the right wing of their plane wilted, quivered a moment, collapsed and was torn off.

Like a shot bird, the big plane apparently stopped. Then slowly at first, it turned over. Over and over, wobblingly, it fell. Two-thirds of the way to earth, it seemed to right itself, as though, fighting to the last, its pilot strove to straighten out.

But the crazy flight was resumed. With a tremendous, sickening thud, and splintering a wooden gear, the machine hit the earth. It nosed a full foot into the ground, pushing a curb stone beneath it. Crushed, with not a bone unbroken, the two bodies found their first tomb amid the wreckage of fuselage and wing.

An incurious half hundred had watched the stunting. A rushing, excited mob of thousands reached the scene of their death within a quarter of an hour.

COLE and LAWLEY took off from Humphreys Curtiss flying field for a practice flight. Accompanying them was another plane, piloted by JAMES FAULKNER, carrying as passenger, J. S. RAUB. Both planes were to be used in connection with the Colorado Pageant of Progress, which opens next week. Both planes were given the usual testing before starting. Both men were strapped in.

COLE guided his machine over Denver back over the Park Hill district. The steady droning of the machine attracted little attention.

As the flying field was reached, in an effort possibly to get a "kick" from something which by long famillarity [sic] was becoming boresome, COLE commenced stunting. Looping the loop, nose diving, perpendicular banking, even performing, with the ever present irony of fate, the falling leaf stunt, which later, he described in the fatal fall.

Suddenly the right wing quivered and collapsed, then parted from the plane. Thrown out of balance, the machine, halted momentarily in its flight. Lopsided, it began to turn over and over, falling like a leaf.

As the plane fell, it could be observed from the shifting of controls, to be seen from the movements of the remaining wing, that Pilot COLE was attempting desperately to straighten out his machine, and once again win a victory over that fate which from whose eager clutches he had so often smillingly[sic] conquered.

Over and over it turned. At about 500 feet from the ground it appeared as though control had again been gained over its crazy flight. The machine straightened up. But for a moment only. Straight as a dropped stone it fell striking on Forest street.

A crash, a flush of flame signaled the end. BERT COLE was one of the most widely known aviators throughout the West. He was one of the most daring challengers of the air.

LAWLEY, too, was a challenger of fate. He too gave countless taunts to death, when, smiling gayly, he placed life at the whim of the gods, by jumping into space, trusting to shreds of silk of a parachute to save him from unthinkable, indescribable death.

Plateau Voice Colorado 1923-07-06