Dorchester Bay – July 1, 1912

Dorchester Bay – July 1, 1912


     On July 1, 1912, world famous aviator Harriet Quimby, and a passenger, William A. Willard, were flying in a two-seat Bleroit monoplane over Dorchester Bay towards Squantum Aviation Field when the aircraft was caught by a sudden gust of wind which lifted the tail and caused the aircraft to “nose forward” while 1,000 feet in the air.  Both Willard and Miss Quimby were pitched from their seats and were killed when they hit the water.  The airplane then turned completely over in the air and came down in the bay.  

     The accident was witnessed by thousands who had come to the Boston Aero meet to watch the flight of several aircraft make their way to Boston Light and back.   Ironicly, Mr. Willard wasn’t originally scheduled to fly with Miss Quimby.  According to one report, newspaper photographer A. B. Reed was supposed to make the flight, but a change was made at the last minute.

     At the time of the accident the tide was low, and the water was only about five feet deep.  The bodies of Miss Quimby and Mr. Willard were quickly recovered by men in motor boats, and transported to the morgue in the town of Qunicy.   This was reported to be the first airplane crash fatality in New England.

     The aircraft was also recovered, however there seems to be conflicting reports about the amount of damage it sustained in the fall.  One report stated, “The powerful Bleriot, after being freed of its two passengers glided off gracefully into the wind and struck the water on an even keel then dove its nose into the mud and turned over on its back.  It was recovered undamaged except for a few broke struts and wires.”    

     However, another report stated, “The wreckage today was dragged from the five feet of water where it stuck in the mud head down. Some mechanical parts may be saved.  Otherwise it is a total loss.”

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer reported as to the possible cause of the accident. “A dozen explanations of the cause of the first heavier than air machine fatality in New England were voiced today by aviators and experts.  The most logical seemed to be that the controlling wire broke when Miss Quimby started her downward glide, snapping the fuselage and throwing the tail up and the head down with such great force that the two aviators were hurled from their seats as if shot from a catapult.”

     The incident gained national attention in the press for Miss Quimby had gained international fame in a relatively short time.  In 1911 she became the first woman to earn a pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America, and in April of 1912, the first woman to fly across the English Cannel.  At one point she was hailed by the American press as being “the leading woman aviator of the world”.  

     In May of 1911 Miss Quimby had survived an earlier plane accident while at the Moisant School in Mineola, New York, when the plane she was piloting fell ten feet and was wrecked.  Miss Quimby wasn’t hurt.

     Harriet Quimby is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  To see a photograph of her grave see, Memorial #4020

     Mr. Willard was a widower, survived by two sons and a daughter.

     Much more has been written about the life of Harriet Quimby which can be found elsewhere on the Internet.      


     Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (CT.), “Miss Quimby Falls In Her Bleriot Today”, May 12, 1911  

     The Marion Daily Mirror, (Ohio), “Harriet Quimby, Leading Woman Aeroplane Expert”, May 31, 1911 

     Bridgeport Evening Farmer, Mother Takes Remains Of Woman Flyer”, July 2, 1912, page 3

     The Washington Times, (Wash. D.C.), “Harriet Quimby And Passenger Killed In Fall From Monoplane”, July 2, 1912 

     The Sun, (N.Y.), “Harriet Quimby Killed By Fall”, July 2, 1912

     El Paso Herald, (TX.), “Harriet Quimby Falls 1000 Feet To Death”, July 2, 1912


Dorchester Bay – July 16, 1944

Dorchester Bay – July 16, 1944


F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On July 16, 1944, Ensign William Oran Seymour Jr., 23, was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat,(Bu. No. 58882), with other aircraft based at the Squantum Naval Air Station, on an air-to-air target practice mission over Dorchester Bay.  (Seymour’s aircraft was assigned to tow a cloth target sleeve behind it while other aircraft took turns making attack runs.)

     Afterwards, as the planes returned to Squantum in preparation for landing,  the engine of  Seymour’s Hellcat began misfiring.  Being over a heavily populated area, the pilot opted to stay with the aircraft rather than bail out.  The plane rapidly lost altitude as it passed over Dorchester’s Savin Hill neighborhood, heading towards Malibu Beach where the pilot hoped to make an emergency landing.  Unfortunately, it being a hot summer day, the beach was crowded with roughly 3,000 people.  As Seymour approached the beach at barely 100 feet off the ground, his vision of the crowd was blocked by a sea wall.  It wasn’t until the last second that he saw all the people and quickly yanked the Hellcat towards the water.  He crashed about 200 yards from shore in about 15 feet of water.   

     One lifeguard who witnessed the accident later told reporters, “It hit first on the left wing, because he swung away from the beach sharply to avoid striking the crowd.  It snapped over so fast that it went end over end, and then the fuselage seemed to crumple up and the plane sank.”

     Several men swam out to the spot where the Hellcat went down in an attempt to rescue the airman, but they were unsuccessful.  Seymour’s body was later recovered by men from the crash-rescue boat sent form Squantum.  

     Ensign Seymour was born in Monroe, North Carolina, and graduated Valedictorian of his high school class in 1938.  He volunteered for the navy in July of 1942, and received his pilot’s wings and Ensign’s commission on October 9, 1943.  He is buried in Monroe Cemetery. 

     For his actions and quick thinking in sacrificing himself in order to save others, he was posthumously awarded a Presidential Citation and the Navy & Marine Corps medal for bravery.

     He was assigned to Fighter Squadron 45, (VF-45)


     NAS Squantum: The First Naval Air Reserve Base, by Marc Frattasio (Pgs. 218-219)

     The Boston Post, (No headline available) Monday, July 17, 1944

     The Gold Star Mothers Homepage – William O. Seymour, Jr.

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated July 16, 1944






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