Parachute Accident, Portland, ME., 1909

Portland, Maine – July 4, 1909

Updated June 15, 2017


     As part of a July 4th celebration in Portland, Maine, Professor Joseph Laroux of Portland, and his assistant, James Corcoran, 28, of Lowell, Massachusetts, were scheduled to give an exhibition of a triple parachute jump from a hot-air balloon.  The plan was to have Corcoran ascend in the balloon to an altitude of 6,000 feet while Laroux stayed on the ground.  When the balloon had reached the required safe altitude, the Professor was to fire a series of gun shots as a signal for Corcoran to jump. 

     Shortly after 4 p.m., the balloon took off from the Eastern Promenade before a crowd of 5,000 spectators.  When it had risen barely 500 feet, some members of the crowd began firing revolvers into the air which confused Corcoran into believing it was safe to jump.   Corcoran hit the ground before the first parachute could open receiving fatal injuries. 

     Mr. Corcoran was survived by his wife and a child.


     New York Times, “Parachutist Leaps To Death”, July 6, 1909 

     Hartford Courant,(Conn.) , “Parachute Jumper Falls To His Death”, July 1909

     Sanford Tribune, (Me.), “Aeronaut Is Dashed To Death”, July 9, 1909, page 6.   


Lewiston, ME – September 5, 1906

Lewiston, Maine – September 5, 1906

     On September 5, 1906, two aeronauts, Carl Smith, of Brocton, Massachusetts, and Ida Merrill, of Boston, were scheduled to give a balloon exhibition/parachute jump at the Maine State Fair, during which the balloon would rise and each would  drop with a parachute.

     As the balloon began to ascend above a crowd of 2,000 spectators, both made preparations to jump.   They climbed out of the gondola and onto two trapezes suspended beneath.  Each trapeze was connected to a parachute.  Just after Smith sat on his trapeze and released his parachute line, one of the ropes to his trapeze broke, and he fell about 125 to the ground landing amidst the crowd.  Nobody on the ground was injured.    

     Smith broke several bones in the fall and was transported to a hospital in what was reported as an “insensible condition”, and was not expected to live. 

     Police later examined the ropes to his trapeze and determined they’d been partially cut prior to the performance, and announced they were looking for two men they suspected of the deed.  

     Merrill landed safely, but came down in a wooded area not far away.

     Despite his severe injuries, Smith recovered from his ordeal.  One year later he was back at the fair grounds to give another performance.  


     The Nashua Telegraph, “Serious Accident On Fair Grounds In Maine”, September 6, 1906 

     New York Times, “Balloonist Falls 125 Feet; Trapeze Rope Breaks And he Crashes To Ground”, September 5, 1906

     The Utica Herald-Dispatch & Daily Gazette, “Aeronaut Falls; Say Rope Was Cut”, September 6, 1906, Pg. 1

     Lewiston Evening Journal, “Balloon Ascension – One Of Best Ever Seen On Grounds – Carl Smith The Aeronaut”, September 3, 1907

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