Tiverton, R.I. – July 20, 1976

Tiverton, Rhode Island – July 20, 1976

     At 11:30 a.m. on July 20, 1976, a single-engine Cessna 172 with two brothers aboard took off from Fall River, Massachusetts, for a sight-seeing trip over the Narragansett Bay and Newport, R.I. area.  About an hour later, as the aircraft was circling the bay, it developed engine trouble and began losing altitude.  The pilot radioed a distress call to Fall River, and airport tower officials tried to provide suggestions for restarting the motor, but nothing worked.  Before long the aircraft was only 50 feet over the water, and the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing. The plane hit the water about 150 feet from shore off a beach in Tiverton, located about 1.5 miles north of the Sakonnet River Bridge.  As it sank, one brother crawled out through a window, while the other managed to get his door open.  While one brother made it to shore on his own, the other struggled in the choppy water due to a health condition. 

     The crash was witnessed by beachgoers, some of who took action.  One of them was 16-year-old Debby Souza, of Tiverton, who swam out to assist the struggling man and was able to keep him afloat.  “I was tired”, the man later told reporters, “I was having a hell of a time staying afloat.  I don’t know if I could have made it to shore alone.”

     As Debby began to make her way towards shore with him, she encountered five other teenagers who swam out from shore towing a skiff.  They were unable to row the boat because there was only one oar.  After getting the man into the boat, they all worked to get it to shore. 

     The other five youths were identified as: Gary Paquin, 17, Paul Simpson, 21, Peter Glewski, 15, Thomas Mc Mahon, 15, all of Tiverton, and Michael Morrissey, 15, of Pawtucket.

     Both brothers were transported to St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

     Source: Providence Evening Bulletin, “Airplane ditches In Mt. Hope Bay; 6 Teenagers Rescue Exhausted Pilot”, July 21, 1976, page A-14             

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲