Narragansett Bay – May 25, 1913

Narragansett Bay – May 25, 1913


    early biplane On May 25, 1913, a Providence baseball team was playing against another team from Jersey City, New Jersey, at a baseball field that overlooked Narragansett Bay.  Part of the post-game festivities included a flight exhibition given by aviator Harry M. Jones, who was locally famous for being the first to fly mail from Boston to New York.  

     Just after 5:00 p.m., his bi-plane was maneuvered to the area of first base in preparation for take off.  As “cargo” Jones was taking along a box of baseballs, which he planned to drop from the air to players on the field. 

     From the start Jones seemed to be having trouble getting the motor to start and keep running, but after several attempts he was successful, and took off in view of several thousand spectators.  After circling the field a few times at an altitude of 50 feet, he began getting ready to  drop the baseballs when the engine suddenly quit.  As the plane began loosing altitude, Jones tried to restart the motor but couldn’t.  His glide path was taking him directly towards the huge crowd of people on the ground who at that point were beginning to scatter in all directions.  Fortunately Jones had just enough altitude to swing the aircraft towards Narragansett Bay, where he crashed into the water and sank with his plane.  Several seconds later he bobbed to the surface, shaken and bruised, but otherwise unhurt. 

     It took four hours to recover the plane from the water.   

     Jones was involved in a more serious crash in Narragansett, Rhode Island on August 9, 1914.  For more details, see Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents on this website.         

     Source: The Providence Journal, “Jones, In Biplane, Plunges Into Bay”, May 26, 1913.  (Article supplied by Patricia Zacks.)      


Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016


    On June 14, 1943, Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Hamilton Morgan, (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) crashed on take-off at Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  The impact detonated a bomb the plane was carrying, fragments of which injured twenty-three men in the immediate area, but only three of them seriously.  

     Morgan initially survived the crash, but died the following day.  He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 1923, and was 19-years-old at the time of his death.  He was commissioned a midshipman in the R.N.V.R in 1942. 

     It was reported that Morgan was flying a single-seat aircraft, but the type was not specified. (Possibly a Corsair)  A newspaper account published June 17th mentioned another R.N.V.R. pilot was also killed on June 14 in an air crash in Rhode Island, but no specifics were given.  That pilot was identified as Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, 20, R.N.V.R., of Surrey, England.    

     Update 1: It has since been learned that Lt. Harris was killed when his Corsair I crashed behind a church in Tiverton, Rhode Island, on June 14, 1943.   

     Update 2:    

Quonset Point NAS June 14, 1943 U.S. Navy Photo

Quonset Point NAS
June 14, 1943
U.S. Navy Photo

     There is information to suggest that Sub-Lieutenant Morgan’s aircraft crashed into a bomb bunker setting off a series of explosions which might explain the high number of casualties connected to this incident.

     The aircraft piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Morgan was a Corsair I, on loan to the British.  

     (U.S. Navy Bu. No. 18139)

     (British number JT-117)


     Both Lt. Harris and Sub-Lieutenant Morgan are buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. 


     Woonsocket Call, “Victim Of Bomb Crash In Critical Condition”, June 16, 1943, Pg.1

     Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Names In R.I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg. 1

     University of Edinburgh Roll Of Honor, 1939- 1945

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #43-36, Memorial #15037581, and 15037579



East Greenwich, R. I. – May 16, 1944

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944

     On May 16, 1944, an F6F-3 Hellcat (41944) assigned to VF-7 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, crashed at the west end of the former Sun Valley Rifle Range in East Greenwich.  Witnesses said the plane had been maneuvering over the area when it suddenly went into a tail spin and crashed.  The pilot was killed, and the subsequent fire ignited the surrounding woods. 

     The pilot, Lt. Comdr. David W. Taylor, was a squadron commander.  He was survived by a wife and two children.  

     Source: The Standard, “Quonset Pilot Falls To Death”, May 18, 1944.



Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

     Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

Warwick, Rhode Island


Martin B-10 Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

Martin B-10 Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the beginning of September, 1936, members of the U.S. Army 99th Bombardment Squadron came to Hillsgrove Airport for two weeks of training.  On the evening of September 21st, three B-10 Bombers took off a night training mission.  Shortly afterwards, heavy fog settled over the area, and when the planes returned the pilots were given instructions via radio on how to land.

     The first bomber to attempt a landing overshot the runway, and according to witnesses, its wheels almost touched down before the pilot gunned the engines for another attempt.  Due to the heavy fog, the pilot evidently didn’t realize how close he was to the end of the runway, and the plane plowed into a patch of woods, broke apart, and caught fire.  All three crewmen aboard died as a result of the crash.   

     The other two planes left the area and landed at Boston and Albany, New York.    

     The crew were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lieut. Jack J. Neely, 25, of Hempstead, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Texas, but death records state Hempstead.)  

     Corporal Angelo Mazzaco, 26, of Long Branch, N.J., died at the scene. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Jersey City, N.J., but death records state Long Branch.)

     Private Thaddeus Macaziewski, 28, of Schenectady, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  (Newspaper accounts identify him as Joseph, J., but Providence death records list him as Thaddeus.)     


Woonsocket Call, “Tragic Hillsgrove Accident Subject Of Two Inquiries”, September 22, 1936, Pg. 1

City of Providence, R. I. death records.

City of Warwick, R.I. death records.







Block Island, R.I. – August 27, 1931

Block Island, R. I. – August 27, 1931

     Very little information is available about this accident.  On the afternoon of August 27, 1931, Evald Lundberg, a.k.a. Gottfred E. Lundberg, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, was burned to death when his airplane crashed on Block Island after his engine failed.

     For those that don’t know, Block Island is three miles off the coast of Rhode Island. 

Source: New York Times, “Flier Dies In Block Island Crash”, August 28, 1931.     

Westerly, R. I. – September 2, 1929

Westerly, R.I. – September 2, 1929

Updated November 26, 2022

     At 4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of September 2, 1929, a small airplane with a pilot and two women passengers aboard took off from Misquamicut Field, (Today known as Westerly Airport), for what was to be a sightseeing flight over the area.  Shortly after take off, while at an altitude of 75 to 100 feet, the engine began to skip.  The pilot attempted to remedy the situation by opening the throttle, but this didn’t correct the malfunction.  He then banked the aircraft with the intention of returning to the airfield.  Realizing he wouldn’t make it to the field, he aimed for Brightman’s Pond, a small salt water pond between Masquamicut Beach and the airfield.  Realizing that a crash was inevitable, the pilot undid his safety belt and called for the women to do the same.  The plane crashed short of the pond, coming down on Misquamicut Beach.  It landed on its left wing, and just as it did so the pilot jumped clear. The aircraft then spun around before coming to an abrupt stop.  Immediately afterwards the plane erupted in flames, and the two passengers perished.   

     According to witnesses, the pilot attempted to reach the plane but was driven back by the smoke and flames. 

     It was reported that the pilot admitted to state police investigators that he’d failed to turn off the ignition prior to the crash.    

      The dead were identified as Mrs. Marie A. Hunter, (31), of 3 Avery Street, Westfield, Massachusetts, and Miss Marie Day, (20), of 20 Colton Avenue, West Springfield, Massachusetts. No autopsies were performed. 

     The type of aircraft is unknown. 


     Woonsocket Call, “2 Women Die In Airplane Crash Near Westerly”, September 3, 1929

     Woonsocket Call, “Fatal Airplane Crash Probed”, September 4, 1929, Pg. 3.      

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Rhode Island

      On July 27, 1928, a U. S. Navy Loeing amphibian aircraft was on a training flight over Narragansett Bay with three men aboard.  The pilot was Ensign Forrest Lockwood McGurk, (USNR) who was receiving flight instruction from Lt. Jg. Thomas J. Kirkland.  Also aboard was Aviation Mechanic Oathe M. Sloane. 

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m., McGurk was attempting to turn the plane in anticipation of a water landing when the plane suddenly went into a spin and crashed into the bay between Conanicut Point and Prudence Island.  Lt. Kirkland was able to free himself and then pull Sloane from the rear cockpit, but McGurk was pinned in the wreckage and sank with the plane.  Twice Kirkland dove under water in an attempt to free him, but was unable.  Fortunately Kirkland and Sloane were able to cling to a wingtip pontoon which had broken free from the impact, and floated for fifteen minutes before being rescued by a boat from the naval torpedo station in Newport.

     When the aircraft was later hauled to the surface, it took over an hour to remove Ensign McGurk’s body. 

     Ensign McGurk was one day shy of his 24th birthday.  He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in May of 1927, and received his officer’s commission five months later.  Two days prior to the crash, he reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Wright in Newport to continue his flight training before his upcoming sea duty.    

     It was reported that this was the third navy plane crash off Newport in seven weeks. Lt. Homer N. Wilkinson was killed on June 9, 1928, when his plane crashed on the shore of Jamestown, R.I..  Commander Thalbert N. Alford, and Lt. Cmdr. William Butler Jr. were killed when their plane crashed in Narragansett Bay on July 2, 1928.       


Providence Journal, “Student Aviator Killed As Plane Crashes Into Bay”, July 28, 1928 pg. 1


Newport, RI – July 2, 1928

Newport, Rhode Island – July 2, 1928 


Thalbert N. Alford

     On July 2, 1928, Commander Thalbert N. Alford, (41), USN, was piloting a Vought O2U Corsair over Newport Harbor with Lieutenant William Butler Jr., (31), aboard as an observer. 

     (Some press reports listed both men as Lieutenant Commanders, but such was not the case.)

     Commander Alford was doing some stunt flying, going through a series of loops and rolls 5000 feet over Newport Harbor.  After the plane made three successive loops, it suddenly went into a spinning dive and slammed nose first into the water. Commander Alford was killed instantly and went down with the aircraft, but Lieutenant Butler managed to free himself and floated to the surface. 

     Crewmen from several nearby naval vessels immediately launched boats and raced towards the scene. The first to arrive was a boat from the U.S.S. Antares with the ship’s doctor aboard.    

     Lieutenant Butler was plucked from the water and rushed to Newport Naval Hospital where he died shortly afterwards.  His injuries were severe, but he reportedly maintained consciousness up until about five minutes before his death.  At his bedside were his wife Adelle, and three officers from the U.S.S. Wright who would later make up the board of inquest. At one point he reportedly told the men, “They should not allow such planes to be used for stunting.”    

William Butler, Jr.

     Meanwhile recovery efforts for the aircraft and the body of Commander Alford were taking place. The navy tug Bob-o-link successfully hauled the plane to the surface.  Commander Alford was found still strapped in the cockpit, dead from the crushing force of the impact and not from drowning.  

     Commander Alford was born in Wills Point, Texas, October 26, 1888, and entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1905, shortly before his 17th birthday. 

     During World War I he earned the Navy Cross while serving overseas as commanding officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Nicholson.  After the war he served in Washington, D.C. with the Bureau of Engineering, later transferring to the Naval Communications Office. 

     He earned his wings as a navy pilot in August of 1927, less than one year before the accident.   

     Lieutenant Butler was born October 2, 1896 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and was 31-years-old at the time of his death.  He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1920, and earned his pilots wings December 21, 1926.

     The Corsair involved in the accident was assigned to Lieutenant Butler, who at the time was serving aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Concord.  On the day of the crash, the Concord was away at sea, and both the plane and Lieutenant Butler had been detailed to Gould Island.   


     Providence Journal “Navy Fliers Fall To Death In Bay”, July 3, 1928, Page 1

     Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), (Associated Press Article), “Two Navy Flyers Killed In Crash”, July 3, 1928, page 2., memorial ID 43687817, and 48998844.


North Smithfield, RI – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of five U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from New Haven, Connecticut, when one piloted by Lieutenant Robert O’Brien developed engine trouble.  The plane was equipped with two gas tanks, and when the first was almost empty, O’Brien opened the fuel supply line from the second, but discovered that the line was clogged.  Almost immediately the engine began sputtering and then stopped, leaving O’Brien with no choice but to make an emergency landing.

     Looking down he saw the old Woonsocket Trotting Park, but noted there was a football game in progress on the field, so he aimed the plane for a nearby farm.  The farm belonged to George Wright, on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, and is still in operation today.   

     As the plane came in to land, the wheels caught the top of a fence which sent it crashing nose first into the sod.    The aircraft was badly damaged, but O’Brien and his civilian passenger, Robert Wise, were uninjured.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Two Escape Injury When Plane Crashes”, November 26, 1928, Pg. 1


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