Waterville, ME Airship Fire, Sept 1908 - Aeronaut Killed


Aeronaut Dropped 500 Feet to His Death Near Fair Grounds of Waterville, Me.


Bag of Dirigible Caught Fire and Machinery and Inventor Shot to Earth Before Crowd.

WATERVILLE, Me., Sept. 2.---In full view of 25,000 spectators on the Maine fair grounds to-day Charles Oliver Jones, the well-known aeronaut of Hammondsport, N. Y., fell a distant of 500 feet to his death. Among the witnesses of the frightful plunge were Mrs. Jones and her child. They were the first to reach the side of the dying man. The aeronaut expired about an hour and a half after the accident.

Jones had been at the fair grounds with his dirigible baloon[sic], the Boomerang, known as the Strobel airship, since Monday, the opening day of the fair. To-day he arranged to make a flight between 3 and 4 o'clock, but such a high wind prevailed that a delay was necessary.

At 4:30 o'clock conditions had modified to some extent, and he gave the word to have the machine released.

When the aeronaut reached a height of more than 500 feet the spectators saw small tongues of fire issuing from under the gas bag in front of the motor. At this time the balloon had passed out of the fair grounds. Many persons in the great crowd shouted to Jones of his danger, but several minutes elapsed before he noticed the fire. Then he grasped the rip cord and endeavored to reach the earth. The machine descended but a short distance when a sudden burst of flame enveloped the gas bag, the framework immediately separating from it.

Jones fell with the frame of his motor, and when his wife and child and the spectators reached him he was lying under the wrecked machinery a quarter of a mile from the grounds. The gas bag was completely destroyed.

The physicians in the crowd found that Jones had no chance to survive, as he was injured internally and his spine was broken. He died at 6:15 o'clock. Coroner Reddington will hold an autopsy on Friday.

Jones had trouble with his balloon yesterday on account of the cold weather Monday night, which caused a number or leaks because of contraction of the gas bag. The leaks were repaired and the balloon inflated, but the wind was so high that Jones considered it dangerous to ascend.

It is thought that the bag leaked again to-day and that a spark from the motor caused the disaster.

Jones was 40 years old, and leaves a wife and one child.

The New York Times, New York, NY 3 Sept 1908