Accident Coxwell Gas Balloon Unregistered, Monday 24 August 1863
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Date:Monday 24 August 1863
Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Coxwell Gas Balloon
Owner/operator:Henry Tracey Coxwell
Registration: Unregistered
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Arnold, Nottinghamshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:Basford Park, Nottingham
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
On 24/8/1863, a Gas balloon, owned by Henry Tracey Coxwell was involved in a fatal accident when the Balloon collapsed, at Arnold, Nottingham. The pilot, James Chambers (aged 36) killed. According to a contemporary newspaper report ("The Empire", Sydney, Thursday October 16, 1863, see link #2):

A fete given on Monday., at Basford Park, near Nottingham, the seat of Mr, North, the colliery proprietor, was attended by a melancholy' occurrence. There were some thousands of people present, and among the entertainments provided was a proposed balloon accent by Mr. Coxwell, the well known aeronaut. The "new and magnificent balloon," as it was described in the advertisements, occupied a prominent position at the lower part of the grounds, where it had been placed at the mouth of an old main, laid down some years ago on the occasion of a similar fete. The process of inflation had been commenced on Sunday afternoon at five o'clock,and has not completed at five o'clock on Monday.

We (the Nottingham Daily Guardian) have beard it stated that the gas was of a very inferior quality, defective in respect of buoyancy, end that the inflation in consequence was a matter of considerable difficulty.

We have also heard that the balloon, however magnificent in appearance it might be, was not altogether new; that some parts of it were old, and especially in some parts of the upper portions, upon which the resistance of the gas would be heaviest.

Be 'that as it may, there was considerable hesitation as to the ascent. Mr. Coxwell absolutely declined to go Up. He stated as his reasons that the balloon was not sufficiently buoyant: and that it to was too heavy in weight to ascend with it. After this statement a member of the committee proceeded to Mr. North's residence with the intention of writing a card of direction to be affixed to the balloon, which he proposed to send up empty. The card was duly written, and contained directions. to any person into whose bands the balloon might come to telegraph to Mr. North, and send the balloon by railway or other available conveyance.

This plan was adopted by Mr. Coxwell in Staffordshire, and answered the purpose sufficiently, although it did not give complete satisfaction to the organisers. It is not improbable that Mr. Coxwell might have adopted it on this occasion also, but that Mr. Chambers offered himself as willing to ascend.

Mr. Chambers was a light man, weighing only about 9st. 3lbs or a atone and a half lighter than Mr. Coxwell. His father was a well-known aeronaut, and made the first ascent from the Arboretum at the time of its opening. Mr. Chambers had made no fewer than twenty-seven ascents in balloons, and on some three or four of those occasions he had ascended quite alone.

The desire to gratify the sensationist appetite of the public seems to have been uppermost. The gentleman who had gone to write the direction cards for the sending the balloon back in case it should go up without an occupant of the car had not tine to return to the enclosure, in which the balloon was being filled.

The machine bed ascended with Chambers in the car. The fact was that the buoyancy of the gas was so much less than ordinary that Mr. Coxwell stated his fear that if a shower of rain came down and saturated the silk and cordage, it would be Impossible for the balloon to ascend at all. A doric mass of clouds appeared to the north.west, driving rapidly
before the wind. It was evident to the least skillful meteologist that it would bring with it a heavy shower.

Chambers, In whom Mr, Coxwell had considerable confidence, was in the air. It was necessary to throw out every bag of ballast, save one; even the grapnel hook was thrown away because of its weight (and Chambers satisfied himself with two beams of wood for anchorage). The fastening were loosened, and slowly, very slowly, but still grandly, the great air ship rose into the sky. The rain cloud had not as yet come in, but the wind blew in fitful gusts, sufficient to indicate to a person who bad been accustomed to weather signs that there was something treacherous in the air.

The balloon, with ill-fated Chambers in the car, had not been up five minutes when it entered a dark nimbus cloud, and was hidden completely from view. After a minute or two the balloon re-appeared from beneath the under surface of the rain cloud. It seemed to be fearfully collapsed, not flattened as a bladder from which the air is compressed, but like a crushed hat, the upper surface driven down on the car. It fell with terrible rapidity towards the earth; and every spectator in the park feared that some dreadful disaster had occurred. During the time that this was observed a heavy rain shower was descending, the force of which few but the most eager spectators could withstand.

In twenty minutes afterwards an earnest group of gentlemen interested in the fete assembled on the lawn in front of Mr. North's mansion, were contacted by a young man who bad ridden over from Arnold with the intelligence that the unfortunate Mr. Chambers had fallen in that locality, and was a corpse. Drs. Robertson and Maltby, who were on the ground, volunteered to proceed to Arnold and attend to the case. A carriage was obtained from Mr. North, and the medical gentlemen drove over to Arnold immediately. After their departure, and in the doubt in which everybody was placed, a consultation was held among the managers of the fete as to the propriety of dismissing the multitude.

It was found to be practically impossible to attempt this; but it was, after much consideration, decided that the bands should be directed to play no longer. It took some time to send the order around the broad expanse of the park. But eventually the sounds of music were no longer borne on the breeze, and a stillness and a gloom settled on the vast assemblage. Gradually the crowds cleared away, and the grounds were empty some hours earlier than was expected.

Our Nottingham correspondent sends us some additional details, from which it appears that the balloon rose steadily, and was carried somewhat rapidly in a north easterly direction towards Nottingham. It proceeded as far as Arnold Vale, when it'was seen suddenly to collapse whilst still at a considerable altitude, and then to fall quickly in an unshapely mess. Some young men who were near the spot where the balloon fell hastened to render assistance.

Tbe balloon heaved and fell as it desoended, completely covering the car, and ultimately both dropped in a field near
South Lane, three miles from Nottingham, The car struck the ground and rebounded several feet, and then fell again; when it was caught hold of by the young men and stopped. At the bottom of the car lay stretched the body of the unfortunate amateur aeronaut. He was lifted out, and found to be just breathing, but quite insensible, having bis hankerchief in his month. He was conveyed to the nearest dwelling, and all means adopted to restore animation, but without effect.

Doctors Robertson and Maltby afterwards saw him and it was discovered that his left thigh was fractured and some of the ribs on his left side were broken, but they considered it very probable that the unfortunate man had died through suffocation, as the hankerchief which was in his mouth had been evidently placed there by himself when he found himself in danger of being stifled by the gas from the collapsing balloon.

An inquest upon the body was held at half-past two o'clock yesterday. Mr. Coxwell stated that he attributed the accident to the deceased's mismanagement of the balloon"



Revision history:

14-Feb-2017 21:43 Dr.John Smith Added

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