Narragansett Bay – June 20, 1982

Narragansett Bay – June 20, 1982

     On June 20, 1982, a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, (#N20303), with three men aboard was flying about six miles south of Jamestown Island when there was a malfunction with the tail rotor and the craft crashed into the water and immediately flipped over.   All three men aboard managed to escape, and were rescued by nearby pleasure boats. 

     At the time of the accident the men were filming the start of the 635 mile Newport-to-Bermuda yacht race for a national television station.  

     The helicopter sank in 105 feet of water, and was recovered in mid-July of 1982.      


     The Sun, (Westerly, RI), “Helicopter Crashes, Crew Saved”, June 21, 1982, page 16. (With photo)

     The Providence Evening Bulletin, “TV Crew, Pilot Saved As Copter Crashes”, June 21, 1982, page A-6 (With Photo)

     Providence Evening Bulletin, Photo with caption of recovered helicopter, July 15, 1982, page A-6 



Smithfield, R.I. – July 8, 1981

Smithfield, Rhode Island – July 8, 1981

     On the morning of  July 8, 1981, a Bell 47 helicopter with two men aboard was taking off at North Central State Airport in Smithfield when one of the skids struck a runway taxi light.  The helicopter flipped over and crashed, coming to rest upside-down. The aircraft’s 21-gallon gas tank was ripped away by the impact and landed a few feet away where it burst into flame.  Both men were able to escape without serious injury.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “2 Slightly Hurt In Crash Of Copter In Smithfield”, July 9, 1981

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “2 Survive Copter Crash”, July 8, 1981, page 2

     Westerly Sun, “Two Escape After helicopter Crashes”, July 9, 1981, page 8


Newport Harbor, R.I. – December 11, 1986

Newport Harbor, Rhode Island – December 11, 1986

     On the evening of December 11, 1986, a Bell Ranger helicopter took off from Newport, R.I. bound for Cranston, R.I., with a lone pilot aboard.  Heavy wet snow was falling at the time, but the pilot was a veteran aviator.  As the helicopter was passing over Newport Harbor it suddenly fell into the water and turned upside down, but was kept afloat by its two pontoons.  The pilot was able to free himself and climb atop one of the pontoons, but he was now soaking wet and in danger of dying of exposure.    

     As luck would have it, Petty Officer Larry Fletcher was on duty at the Navy’s Stillwater Basin docks a short distance away, and shortly after the crash he stepped outside to get his coat.  It was then he heard faint cries for help coming from across the water, but couldn’t see anything due to the swirling snow and darkness of the night.      

     Fletcher then notified William Myers, a civilian boat engineer working in the area, and the two of them took a navy boat out into the harbor to search for the source of the cries.   A short time later they came upon the helicopter pilot atop one of the pontoons.

     After being taken aboard the navy vessel the pilot was placed next to the heater and given a coat and hat to put on.  Once ashore he was transported to the Newport Naval Hospital to be examined.

     Source: Providence Journal-Evening Bulletin, “Cranston Copter Pilot Plucked From Newport Harbor”, December 12, 1986, page A2           


West Greenwich, R.I. – May 22, 1976

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 22, 1976  

     At about noon time on May 22, 1976, a helicopter carrying Rhode Island’s Governor Phillip Noel, and a pilot, Thomas Shortall, left T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, and landed at the Warwick Mall about three miles away.  At 12:15 p.m., the helicopter took off again bound for the Alton Jones Campus of the University of Rhode Island, located in West Greenwich, where the Governor was scheduled to address the American Federation of Teachers. 

     The helicopter was scheduled to land in a hay field on the campus, where a police car awaited to transport the Governor to his scheduled talk.  As the helicopter was making its final approach at an altitude of about 200 feet, it suddenly lost the tail rotor and fell into the woods surrounding the field.  

      Both the Governor and Mr. Shortall were admitted to Kent County Hospital in Warwick, with non-life-threatening injuries.   The helicopter was wrecked.


     (Del.) Wilmington Sate-News, “Rhode Island Governor Hurt In Copter Crash”, May 23, 1976 

     (Ct.) The Day, “Governor Noel, Pilot Suffer Injuries In Helicopter Crash”, May 24, 1976

Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

     Hillsgrove Airport – May 14, 1947

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On the afternoon of May 14, 1947, a Bell helicopter containing a student pilot and an instructor took off from Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick.  (Today the airport is known as T. F. Green)  Just after take off, according to witnesses, the aircraft was about 200 feet in the air when one of the rotor blades suddenly broke away. 

     The helicopter fell and burst into flame.  Two women who witnessed the crash, Mrs. George Page, and Mrs. William Buell, ran to the site and managed to pull one of the men from the wreckage.  Unfortunately, despite the rescue effort, both men aboard the helicopter perished.  They were identified as: Robert F. Chott, 29, of Providence, the instructor, and Gardiner Watts, 27, of Boston, the student.    


     New York Times, “2 In Helicopter Killed” May 15, 1947 

     Unknown Paper, “Helicopter Crash Kills Two In Mass.”, May 15, 1947.  Headline should read R.I., not “Mass.”

     The Pawtucket Times, “Copter Parts Studied For Wreck Clues”, May 16, 1947, pg. 9

     Niagra Falls Gazette, “Bell Copter Death Case Is Resumed”, November 12, 1955.  Article pertains to a lawsuit relating to the accident. 


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