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             

Sakonnet River, Tiverton, R.I. – September 29, 1942

Sakonnet River, Tiverton, Rhode Island – September 29, 1942

Updated June 19, 2018

Updated January 13, 2019

Updated January 25, 2022


Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps Photo

     On the morning of September 29, 1942, a U.S. Navy Grumman JF-1 Duck, (Bu. No. 9455), and a U.S. Army P-40 fighter, (Ser. No. 41-14186), were involved in a mid-air collision over the Sakonnet River.  A security guard who’d witnessed the incident said that there had been three aircraft in close proximity to each other just prior to the accident, and that after the collision, two of the planes fell into the river.   

     Another witness to the accident was George Helger of Tiverton, who was working on his scallop boat off Jack Island Point south of an area known as Stone Bridge.  He saw two parachutes deploy and watched as the aviators dropped down into the water, and immediately went to their aid.  The first man he reached was Lt. Cmdr. Clarence A. Hawkins, the pilot of the Grumman aircraft.  After rescuing Hawkins, Helger set off to save the other man, 2nd. Lt. Robert A. Marsh, 24, the pilot of the army airplane, but Marsh sank beneath the water before he could be reached.    

Grumman Duck
U. S. Navy Photo

     Helger also came upon a body floating in the water and retrieved it.  The parachute the man was wearing hadn’t been opened.  He was identified as Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3/c James Harris Elmer, Jr., 18, of Bridgeton, New Jersey.  Elmer had been aboard the Grumman craft. 

     It was also reported that a third man aboard the Grumman airplane, a radio operator identified in the press only by his last name, “McAlendon”, was missing.  However, it seems the name was misspelled. 

     Update: According to U.S. Navy report 43-4907, the missing man was RM2c Homer D. McLendon, and not “McAlendon”.  

     Lt. Robert Marsh is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac, Michigan.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/82428815/robert-a-marsh

     AMM 3/c James Elmer is buried in Fernwood Memorial Park, Bridgeton, New Jersey.  


     Lt. Cmdr. Clarence Hawkins was from Wichita, Kansas.  Burial information unknown.

     RM2c Homer McLendon was from Providence, R. I. Burial information unknown.     

    No further information is available as of this update.



     U. S. Navy accident report #43-4907

     Fall River Herald, “Army and Navy Planes In Crash”, September 30, 1942

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-29

     Findagrave.com  Memorial # 144801195  (Shows a photo of the grave.)


Tiverton, R.I. – June 14, 1943

Tiverton, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

     On June 14, 1943, a Corsair I on loan to the British Navy, (#JT-110), piloted by British aviator Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, crashed into a wooded area near the Old Stone Church Cemetery in the Adamsville section of Tiverton, R.I.  The plane exploded on impact and Harris was killed. 

    Harris was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve serving at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. 

     Lt. Harris is buried in Island cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581


    Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Named In R. I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg1.

    Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian



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