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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 217804
Last updated: 1 November 2019
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Date:14-AUG-1908
Time:11:30 LT
Type:Airship, Capt Thomas T Lovelace
Owner/operator:Capt Thomas T Lovelace
Registration: Unregistered
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Franco-British Exhibition, White City, Shepherds Bush, London -   United Kingdom
Phase: Standing
Nature:Demo/Airshow/Display
Departure airport:White City, Shepherds Bush, London
Destination airport:
Narrative:
14/8/1908: Airship, Capt Thomas T Lovelace written off due to an explosion while undergoing repairs at the Franco-British Exhibition, White City, Shepherd's Bush, West London. There were two fatalities:

Blanche Hill (aged 21) killed
Edward Fitzgibbons (aged 47) died 16.8.08 of injuries sustained

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Cardiff Evening Express" 14 August 1908):

"AIRSHIP ABLAZE
White City Disaster
TREMENDOUS EXPLOSION.
Several Killed & Injured
LADY'S BODY CHARRED TO CINDER.

The first serious accident in connection with the Franco-British Exhibition occurred to-day. Shortly before noon the public and attendants were startled by a tremendous report. It proceeded from the Aerodrome, the name given by Captain Lovelace, the American aeronaut, to the large tent-like erection from which his balloon ascents were made.

While the gas-bag of his airship was being inflated the gas suddenly exploded. The balloon was instantly an immense mass of flames. The explosion was attended by terrible results. The reports as to the number of casualties are conflicting, but it is stated definitely that Miss Hill, lady secretary to Captain Lovelace, and George Leonard, Captain Lovelace's foreman, were killed. The estimated number of injured varies from five to twelve. It is also reported that a lady named Miso Knight is dying. This is not confirmed.

One of the numerous ambulance depots in the Exhibition is situated just outside the Aerodrome, and thither the injured were quickly conveyed. The scene was an a frightening one, for in the dense smoke and alarm no one knew precisely what had happened or who had escaped. The air-ship was going to ascend this after-noon, and the captain and his attendants were making preparations to that end. The air-ship is a total wreck. It was torpedo-shaped, and about twice as long as a pantechnicon van.

Miss Hill, the unfortunate girl who was burned to death, was having lunch in the shed. Burnt to Ashes After the explosion occurred the fire brigade were called out and smoke helmets were used. An employe at the Exhibition who was outside the place where the disaster occurred said that as soon as he heard the explosion he went inside the grounds, and saw the balloon of the airship in flames.

The clothes of the man George Waite were burning on his body. These were pulled off by one employee, while another poured oil on the man's body. The poor fellow was in terrible agony. The body of Miss Blanche Hill was bunt to ashes.

Blown to Debris
The Central News says that later details show that a number of persons were standing close to the wooden shed, where the airship was housed, including Captain Lovelace, when a terrific explosion occurred, knocking down people within a radius of 200 or 300 yards. Almost before the persons present had recovered from, the shock. nothing was to be seen of the airship but a mass of debris, while the shed was blazing furiously. All round lay the bodies of badly injured men and women, their clothes practically burnt away and their faces and bodies terribly mutilated.

The bodies of a man and a woman were taken out, and it needed little examination to show that they were dead. All the badly injured, numbering about half a score, were at once placed on ambulances and taken to the nearest hospitals.

The Injured
There are at the time of telegraphing three persons in the Hammersmith Infirmary and two in the West London Hospital. The names of the latter are:- Henry Grand, aged 36, of Barnsbuxy, and Sydney Oliver, 33, of Fulham. More injured are being taken to both hospitals. Captain Lovelace is alive. according to the latest information, but badly hurt, and in a state of collapse through grief at the disaster. The explosion reverberated throughout the Exhibition, shaking china and glass and breaking windows..and was distinctly heard outside, so that there was soon a number of persons clamouring for admission to the Exhibition to find out what had occurred.

Shaken Off Their Feet
Hundreds near the scene were shaken almost off their feet, and pieces of stucco work and plaster were shaken down from the buildings. The accident, which occurred just after 11.30, is stated to have been due to the careless lighting of a match-end When the explosion occurred all her clothing, with the exception of her corset, was burned off her body.

The aerodrome is situated near the Stadium. The airship was guarded from public view by a fence, and notices were posted all over the shed that smoking was prohibited, A later telegram stated that Harry Bland, who was helping to fill the gas-bag, wae seriously injured. Nothing of the airship remains but the ropes, and the shed is wrecked. All the chairs surrounding the airships shed were burnt up by the flames. Two of the injured, named Grand and Oliver, were taken to the West London Hospital. They were suffering from burns, and it is expected they will have to be detained.

The other persons were removed to the infirmary in the Exhibition grounds, where their injuries were attended to. The killed and injured were employees of Captain Lovelace. Some of them were engaged in putting up bunting in preparation for an ascent to-morrow. It is stated that some of the injuries received are of a ghastly nature. When the explosion occurred terrible scenes were witnessed, something of a panic prevailing, as it was feared that a captive balloon near by would take fire.

ONLY ONE KILLED.
A later message states that only Miss Hill was killed."

Sources:

1. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1916.htm
2. Cardiff Evening Express 14 August 1908): http://newspapers.library.wales/view/4193175/4193178
3. https://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/127/12700205/12700205.pdf
4. https://newspaperarchive.com/altoona-mirror-aug-14-1908-p-1/
5. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1908-08-14/ed-1/seq-1.pdf


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
14-Nov-2018 20:32 Dr.John Smith Added
14-Nov-2018 20:35 Dr.John Smith Updated [Source]
14-Nov-2018 20:37 Dr.John Smith Updated [Narrative]
14-Nov-2018 20:37 Dr.John Smith Updated [Registration]
19-Nov-2018 19:32 Dr.John Smith Updated [Location, Narrative]

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