Accident Gas Balloon S-6, Sunday 23 September 1923
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Date:Sunday 23 September 1923
Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Gas Balloon
Owner/operator:United States Army Air Service (USAAS)
Registration: S-6
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:3
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Nistelrode, Bernheze, about 8 km south of Oss, Noord-Brabant -   Netherlands
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Brussels, Belgium
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Competing in 12th Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett. Hit by lightning while airborne, like two other balloons, and crashed. First Lieutenants Robert S Olmsted and John W Shoptaw both killed. According to a rough translation From Dutch in English of a contemporary report:

"Hot air balloon at Loosbroek
R. van Berkom
told on May 26, 2009
updated on April 30, 2014
On Sunday, September 23, 1923, in the evening around 7 p.m., two balloons were seen passing by at an altitude of about 500 meters near Lunenburg in Loosbroek, which at one point disappeared behind a large thundercloud. A flash of lightning flickered through the skies and one of the two gas-filled balloons plunged into flames.

Dismayed, a number of people rushed to the scene of the disaster, where two American army officers were pulled from the still-burning mass. Doctor W. van Binsbergen was soon on site, but could only establish death. One officer was struck by lightning, the other died as a result of the fall and the terrible impact. American papers and money were found on the remains, as well as binoculars, chronometers and maps.

The Americans who died in the accident were Lieutenant John W. Choptaw, aged 34, a resident of Worthington, Indiana, and Lieutenant Robert S. Olmstead, aged 37, a resident of Sheldon, Vermont. John Choptaw was married and had no children. The state constable in Dinther, Adrianus van de Leijgraaf, and the municipal constable of Nistelrode, Lambertus van Rooij, reported the death of both lieutenants in Nistelrode.

On Monday, the public prosecutor's office from Den Bosch arrived in Nistelrode to conduct an investigation, followed around 7 p.m. by the American authorities from Brussels and The Hague. The Wit-Gele Kruis car from 's-Hertogenbosch was summoned, which transported the corpses to 's-Hertogenbosch at 10 pm, after which they were shipped to America.

On that particular Sunday, the American balloon “US Army S-6” had left Brussels at 3 p.m. as a participant in the balloon competition for the so-called Gordon Bennett cup. It was (and still is, the Gordon Bennet Cup competition that has been around since 1906 and is still held annually) to see who can cover the longest distance without landing. The Belgians Ernest Demuyter and Leon Coeckelbergh won the GB Cup that year with their balloon Belgica. They covered a distance of 1,155 km in 21 hours and ended up in Sköllersta in Sweden.

The Gordon Bennett Cup of 1923 was also quite dramatic. Already during take-off the US Army (it was too heavily loaded) had hit a Belgian balloon, the Ville de Bruxelles, which was so damaged that it could not take off at all. Of the sixteen other participating balloons, three were struck by lightning along the way, resulting in a total of five deaths and one serious injury.

None of that mattered to the official result: the place of landing counted, and so our Americans are listed as 9th in the annals of the GB Cup. It is remarkable that according to the results list they would have landed in Moerdijk. Of all that misery, not much appears on the site of the balloon race. For that you have to go to the various newspapers in the Netherlands and America (such as the Omaha Daily News of September 24, 1923)".

The crash location of Nistelrode is a village in the Dutch province of North Brabant. It is located in the municipality of Bernheze, about 8 km south of Oss.


1. Scores of Lives Deliberately Risked and Sacrificed in Pursuit of Knowledge to Protect Others From Disease and Death". Popular Mechanics. Popular Mechanics Co. 44 (July): 49–54. 1925.
2. Omaha Daily News of September 24, 1923

Revision history:

18-Mar-2022 13:40 Ron Averes Added
20-Mar-2022 03:25 Ron Averes Updated [Operator]
06-Sep-2022 20:52 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Other fatalities, Location, Source, Narrative, Category]

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