Fredericktown, MD Pleasure Yacht Explodes, Sep 1941


Fredericktown, Maryland -- (AP) -- MRS. DOROTHY BURT HELMS, 40, wife of PAUL EDWARD HELMS, 41, of 2015 Melrose Avenue, Chester, Pennsylvania, was one of three women killed in a double explosion on the 80-foot yacht Kooyong, which injured seven other passengers when it was demolished in a dual blast in Maryland Saturday evening at 7 p.m.
She was taken from the water of the Sassafras River, at Fredericktown, Md., by her husband, PAUL, and died soon afterwards. MR. HELMS was severely burned as he rescued their nine-year-old daughter, BARBARA, who sustained a fractured left leg in the explosion, and his wife.
The dead are:
DR. DOROTHY CHILD, 50, of 5023 McKean Avenue, Germantown.
MISS MARY PANCOAST, 40, of 5926 Green Street, Philadelphia.
Injured were:
DR. CHARLES S. PANCOAST, 5926 Green Street, Germantown, yacht owner and brother of MISS PANCOAST, who suffered burns and a fractured leg.
RICHARD PANCOAST, 56, of the same address, brother of DR. PANCOAST, who received burns, cuts and shock.
LAURA PANCOAST, 50, a sister living at the same address, who had burns and cuts.
JAMES PANCOAST, 58, of York, Pa., another brother, burns of both legs.
MR. HELMS, severe burns.
his daughter, BARBARA, nine years old, fracture of left leg.
WILLIAM BIBBS, 48, Negro cook, burns and cuts.
The yachting party were the guests of DR. PANCOAST, socialite nose and throat specialist of Germantown. The merry group of nine friends and relatives were stocking the pleasure craft at the end of a 75-foot dock near the home of Captain Norman Reagon, of Fredericktown.
PAUL HELMS and JAMES PANCOAST had walked ashore for a package left in their car and were returning to the craft when the first blast demolished the cabin and deck of the Kooyong, throwing everyone but MISS MARY PANCOAST into the Sassafras River, some being blown through the heavy double-planked hull. Fifteen minutes later a second blst rent the boat from stem to amidship, when the flames reached the engine room and left it a litter of wreckage in five feet of water.
William L. Burt, of Brielle, N.J., father of MRS. HELMS, told the Chester Times today that his son-in-law was the "hero of the tragedy."
Following the story, MR. HELMS told his father-in-law: "I was walking back from the car with a package, and had proceeded a short way down the dock when the concussion of an explosion almost threw me from the platform."
"Flames leaped 100 feet in the air, and through the red haze and billowing smoke, I could see the bodies of my family and friends hurtling through the air. In a second the water around the wrecked boat was covered with burning gasoline, oil and wreckage. I dove overboard immediately," Mr. Burt remarked in the narration that MR. HELMS is an exceptionally strong man and an expert swimmer. His story continued.
"I swam under water to avoid the burning oil of the surface, and first came in contact with a man, whom I extricated. This was DR. PANCOAST the owner of the yacht. Diving back again, I felt a body under me and swam with it to the shore. It was BARBARA, my daughter."
"Again I returned to the burning area, and dived down to the hull of the boat. I saw a body wedged in the wreckage of the frame, and by the nature of the clothing, recognized it as that of DOROTHY, my wife. I removed a tremendous weight from her body, and finally was able to bring her to the surface and then to shore."
"She was not dead, and in the car on the way to the hospital she recovered consciousness. I told her that BARBARA and myself were not seriously injured, and she nodded that she understood. She died about two hours afterward," he concluded.
Mr. Burt said that Mrs. Helms had been with him and her mother most of the summer at their New Jersey home. Mrs. Burt had feared the forthcoming yachting party and last week told her daughter that she hoped, "it would rain so hard that the trip would be called off." She is near prostration at the tragedy.
The little girl, BARBARA BURT HELMS, her leg in a cast in the hospital said she "knew her mother was dead."
"My mommy's gone and I promise to be a good girl," she bravely told the grief-stricken grandfather.
MR. HELMS' theory of the cause of the accident was a hidden leakage of the propane gas which collected in the bilge of the boat. A spark of flame of some nature ignited it, blowing the boat into watersoaked wreckage.

Chester Times Pennsylvania 1941-09-29