Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Big Dirigible Explodes -- July 2, 2019

South Bend News-Times, 02-July-1919
100 years ago today, Navy dirigible C-8 exploded soon after landing for repairs at Camp Holabird, Maryland.


Was Bound for Cape May
With Crew of Six When
Accident Occurs.

BALTIMORE, Md., July 2 -- The big navy dirigible C-8, commanded by Lieut. N. J. Learned with a crew of six men and two passengers bound from Cape May, N. J., to Washington, exploded with terrific force just after landing at Camp Holabird, near this city Tuesday to adjust rudder trouble. The explosion shook the cantonment and the eastern section of the city like an earthquake shock. The great balloon instantly became a mass of flames.

Shooting flames and bits of blazing fragments scattered over the crowd of nearly 200 men, women and children who had gathered on the camp field to see the monster flier. Seventy-five persons, mostly women and children, were burned or otherwise injured.

Crew Escapes Injury.

None of the officers or crew of the C-8 were hurt though several of them sustained severe shocks. They were at work on the disabled rudder when the explosion occurred. The explosion is believed to have been caused by rapid expansion caused by heat, according to the commander. The bag contained more gas than was required after descending from a colder altitude temperature. Lieut. Learned was in the office of the camp adjutant notifying naval authorities at Washington by phone of his rudder trouble, when the shock of the explosion nearly took him off his feet. Some of the persons including Camp Holabird men who were near the dirigible were blown 20 or 30 feet by the concussion. Houses nearly a mile away were shaken and windows broken by the shock. The air was filled with gas fumes. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Pank, a half mile away from the scene, looked like a cyclone had struck it. Door and window frames were twisted. Window panes were broken. There were burned marks all over the house. Mrs. Pank, who was on the second floor, was severely injured.

Organize Relief.

Relief was organized immediately from the Camp Holabird hospital and 60 persons went there to have their wounds dressed, about 20 being burned seriously enough to remain at the institution.

Samuel DeLuca, a Young Men's Christian association officer, who was standing on the railing of the car when the big bag burst, was flung several feet out of the range of the fire, badly burned about the hands and legs.

Joseph Staks, 11 years old, and Joseph Kudek, 13, who were burned about the face and body, figured in one of the freakish effects which the explosion produced. They were driving near the balloon in a little cart behind a pony. The explosion blew them out of their cart and threw them some distance from it. It threw the pony to the earth violently. The pony was burned about the body more seriously than the boys.

The men who formed the crew of the dirigible besides Lieut. Learned were: Navigation officer, Commander F. W. Wyerbach; directional pilot, Ensign C. W. Tyndall; engineer, Warrant Officer B. F. Sherman; first class Machinist, Keller, and Radio Officer W. Lynch. The passengers were Lieut. Commander R. D. Quigley and Lieut. A. R. Tilburne.

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