Atlantic City, NJ AKRON Airship Disaster, Jul 1912 - Balloon Explodes


Atlantic City, N. J., July 3.----Plunged 1,000 feet to earth when the dirigible balloon the Akron blew up in mid-air, Melvin Vaniman, the famous aerial navigator and the four men of his crew were dashed to death Tuesday. The Akron had been constructed for a trip across the Atlantic and was the last word in balloon construction. The flight over the meadows began at 7 o'clock, and it was just a short time later that the accident occurred.

Like a blazing meteorite the burning balloon dashed earthward, emitting clouds of black smoke. It fell upon Brigantine Beach and rescuers who dashed two miles across the inlet were unable to give any help.

Besides Melvin Vaniman those on the Akron were; Calvin Vaniman, brother of the aeronaut; Fred Elmer, George Boutlin and Alter Gest.

Mrs. Melvin Vaniman saw the disaster from the porch of her home. She collapsed and is in serious condition.

An hour after the accident and after the rescuers had given up all hope of finding any of the bodies, the corpse of Calvin Vaniman was recovered.

Melvin Vaniman was personally in charge of the balloon during the flight and his crew consisted of four men, including his brother.

After making a search of the beach about the point where the balloon had plunged to earth, rescuers took to boats and began searching the bay in the hope of find some of the aerial sailors with breath of life still in them.

The body of Calvin Vaniman was recognized by a party in a launch belonging to Councilman Harry Cook. It was floating in Absecon bay. Although bruised, it was not burned. News that "Vaniman has gone up" spread rapidly and despite the early hour thousands were soon gathered upon the beaches and the street watching the huge cigar-shaped craft outlined against the morning sky.

After attaining an altitude of about 1.000 feet the aerial pilot began putting his craft through fancy motions. There was no wind, the air was clear and conditions were ideal for ballooning. Taking advantage of this Vaniman decided to show the people on the beaches some fancy stunts. It was during these evolutions that the explosion occurred.

One theory was that a leak in the fuel tank caused an explosion and that the flames from this set the bag afire.

Grand Rapids Tribune, Grand Rapids, WI 19 Jul 1912