1910 - JOHNSTONE DROPS 800 FT. TO MEET HORRIBLE DEATH. HOLDER OF WORLD'S ALTITUDE RECORD KILLED WHEN WING TIP ON MACHINE BREAKS. HIS BODY VIOLATED.
CURIOUS THRONG OF RELIC HUNTERS CARRY OFF GLOVES AND SPLINTERS PIERCING AVIATOR.
Denver, Colo., Nov. 18. - RALPH JOHNSTONE holder of the world's altitude record was instantly killed late yesterday afternoon when he dropped from a height of 800 feet to the Overland Park aviation field, on account of the breaking of a wing tip on his biplane. An instant after his fall the field was stormed by a crowd of the curious and the body of the young aviator violated by relic hunters.
JOHNSTON'S gloves and a splinter that pierced his body were carried away by morbidly curious persons.
The daring aviator was instantly killed, fighting until the very instant when his body struck the ground to right his machine. His back, neck and both legs were broken and the bones of his thighs forced through his leather garments. The useless planes of his machine fell over the body of the aviator like a shroud.
Fresh from his triumphs at Belmont Park, where he had broken the world's record for altitude, with a flight of 9714 feet, JOHNSTONE attempted to give the thousands of spectators an extra thrill with his most daring feat, the spiral glide.
The fatal flight was the second JOHNSTONE had made during the afternoon. In the first flight, when he was in the air with Hoxsey and Brookins, he had gone through his usual program of dips and glides.
As he started the second circle, the middle spur, which braces the left side of the lower plane, gave way, and the wing tips of both upper and lower planes folded up as though they had been hinged. For a second JOHNSTONE attempted to right the plane by warping the other wing up. Then the horrified spectators saw the plane swerve like a wounded bird and plunge straight toward the earth.
JOHNSTONE was thrown from his seat as the nose of the plane swung downward. He caught on one of the wire stays between the planes and grasped one of the wooden braces of the upper plane with both hands. Working with hands and feet, he fought by main strength to warp the planes so that their surface might catch the air and check his descent.
For a second it seemed that he might succeed for the helmet he wore blew off and fell much more rapidly than the plane. The hope was momentary, however, for when about 300 feet from the ground the machine turned completely over, and the spectators fled wildly as the broken plane with the aviator still fighting grimly in its mesh of wires and stays, plunging among them with a crash.
Scarcely had JOHNSTONE hit the ground before morbid men and women swarmed over the wreckage, fighting with each other for souvenirs. One of the broken wooden stays had gone almost through JOHNSTONE'S body. Before doctors or police could reach the scene, one man had torn this splinter from the body and run away, carrying his trophy with the aviator's blood still dripping from its ends.
San Antonio Light And Gazette
San Antonio, Texas
November 18, 1910
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