Decatur, AL Balloonist Dies In Accident, May 1872



From the Nashville Banner, May 29.
A balloon ascension, resulting in a tragic catastrophe, occurred at Decatur, Ala., last Monday. The balloon was of the hot-air class, and one of the main attractions connected with MIKE LIPMAN'S Queen City Circus. When a large crowd had gathered, and just before the process of inflation had been fully completed, Prof. ATKINS, the aeronaut, expressed great uneasiness as to the safety of the ascension. The circus men, however, only laughed at his apprehensions, and, in a joking way, remarked that he would come down all right. Still he could not dismiss his dark forebodings, and after he had gotten into the basket of the balloon preparatory to its being let off, he remarked to the spectators in a sad tone of voice, "This is the last ascension I'll ever make!" Very soon the balloon was released from its moorings and shot up, ascending to the height of about half a mile. It was steadily driven by a current of wind over Decatur, hovered over the Tennessee River, and then descended as rapidly as it had ascended, falling about the middle of the river. Prof. ATKINS soon rose to the surface, but having become entangled in the ropes attached to the basket, he succeeded in releasing himself only after a desperate struggle, which, it is supposed, exhausted his strength. He swam heroically toward the shore opposite Decatur, while the balloon floated down stream. A fisherman named ABE NICHOLS, who was half a mile away at the time the balloon fell into the river, rowed toward it as fast as possible, to save the daring aeronaut. Not being able to see him after the balloon had struck the water, and believing that he would cling to it until it sunk, NICHOLS made for the balloon. On nearing it, however, he discovered Prof. ATKINS some distance off, and at once tried to row to him, but in vain, for just as he got within about twenty or thirty feet of him, Prof. ATKINS, who had himself nearly reached the shore, sank and rose not more. The balloon was recovered some distance below where Prof. ATKINS was drowned, and was again exhibited at Pulaski yesterday, but the aeronaut's body has not yet been recovered.

The New York Times New York 1872-06-01