Off Block Island – November 14, 1941

Off Block Island – November 14, 1941


Curtiss Seagull
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 14, 1941, the U.S. navy cruiser USS Augusta, (CA-31), was off the Rhode Island shore in the vicinity of Block Island.   Attached to the Augusta was a Curtiss SOC-3 Seagull aircraft used for observation purposes. 

     The navy report of this incident is brief, and does not state why the aircraft was airborne.  It only mentions that the aircraft made a landing in choppy seas near an oil slick.  Upon landing the left wing float was damaged and developed a leak which caused the aircraft to capsize.  Fortunately the pilot and his observer were rescued unharmed.    

     No further details were given. 

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report #3488, dated November 14, 1941

Off Block Island – April 30, 1942

Off Block Island, R. I. – April 30, 1942


Vought SB2U Vindicator
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of April 30, 1942, a flight of Vought SB2U Vindicator navy aircraft were participating in a coordinated group bomb-attack training flight off Sandy Point, Block Island.  At 2:30 p.m., two of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 1365), and (Bu. No. 0746), were involved in a mid air collision.  (Bu. No. 1365) had its right wing sheared off in the collision.  (Bu. No. 0746) had part of its right wing and tail section torn away.  Both aircraft had been traveling in opposite directions in different groups at the time of the accident. 

     The pilot of (Bu. No. 1365 ) was Ensign David L. Kauffman, 21.  With him was Lt. (Jg.) Howard Lapsley, 31, serving as an observer.   As the aircraft fell, one man was seen to bail out, but his parachute never opened.  The aircraft crashed into the water north of Sandy Point.    

     The pilot of (Bu. No. 0746) was Ensign Frederick W. Tracey.  With him was his radioman, ARM3/c  J. C. Brown.  Both parachuted safely as their aircraft crashed into the water north of Sandy Point.  Both men were rescued from the water.

     The aircraft were assigned to VS-41. 

     The weather at the time of the accident was fair and hazy.  

     To see a photograph Ensign Kauffman, and to read his obituary go to and see memorial #113970491.

     To learn more about Lt. (Jg.) Lapsley, go to, and see memorial #25898354.


     U. S. Navy accident report #4091, dated April 30, 1942 

Block Island Airport – August 25, 1974

Block Island Airport – August 25, 1974

     On August 25, 1975, three men, all members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, left Danbury, Connecticut, bound for Block Island, R.I., in a single-engine Beech Musketeer aircraft.  They arrived at Block Island at about 2:00 p.m., and as the plane approached the runway of Block Island State Airport, the engine lost power and the plane crash landed 93 feet short of the runway.  Two of the three men aboard suffered minor injuries.      

     This was the second aviation accident to occur in Rhode Island on this date.  Another man was killed when his homemade plane crashed into the water off Deluca’s Beach in Narragansett, R.I.  That accident is also posted on this website.


     Westerly Sun, “Man Killed As Plane Crashes Off Scarborough State Beach”, August 26, 1974, Page 1.     

Off Block Island, R.I. – June 13, 1945

Off Block Island, Rhode Island, June 13, 1945


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

     On June 13, 1945, Ensign Herbert J. Audet took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, R.I., for a gunnery training flight off Block Island.  He was piloting an F6F-5E Hellcat, (Bu. No. 72735).

     After making a run, he began to climb and noted that the oil pressure began to drop.  The propeller went into a low pitch, and as the oil pressure continued to drop the engine froze.  Ensign Audet was able to make a safe emergency landing in the water about a half-mile south of Block Island.  He scrambled out of the plane before it sank, and was rescued a short time later.


     National Archives, AAR 11-45; TD450613RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     U. S. Navy Accident Report dated June 13, 1945

Block Island, R.I. – August 26, 1995

Block Island, Rhode Island – August 26, 1995

Town of New Shoreham

     On August 26, 1995, a Cessna 185 (N4944E) took off from East Hampton, Long Island, New York, bound for Block Island.  The aircraft was a seaplane capable of water landings.

     There were four people aboard, a 52-year-old pilot and three passengers in their 20s.  

     The plane arrived at Block Island shortly after 1 p.m. and attempted to land at Old Harbor Beach, touching down about 400 feet from shore and heading towards land.  After traveling about 100 feet the pilot aborted due to rocks and swimmers in the area.  The airplane leveled off at 15 feet and continued towards shore where it rose again to clear a building and some electrical wires.  After clearing the first set of wires, the plane settled downward and caught a second set of wires.  It then dove towards a restaurant known as G.R. Sharkey’s which also had an attached gas station.  One of the aircraft’s pontoons slammed into a car occupied by a 79-yrear-old woman who was parked at the gas pumps, before crashing into the restaurant and bursting into flames.  The woman and three people aboard the plane died at the scene.  One male passenger aboard the aircraft managed to free himself from the wreckage, but later died of his injuries at Rhode Island Hospital.   

     Fortunately the restaurant was fairly empty at the time of the crash, and no patrons or employees were hurt.  

     This incident remains the worst aviation disaster to occur on Block Island.


     National Transportation Safety Board accident report brief – #NYC95FA203 

    New York Times, “Plane Hits Block Island Restaurant, Killing 5”, August 27, 1995

     New York Times, “Small Town tries To Get Over Shattering Plane Crash”, August 28, 1995

     New York Times, “Last 3 Victims Identified In seaplane Crash”, August 29, 1995

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