Atlantic City, NJ Dirigible AKRON Explosion, Jul 1912

akron_air_ship_drawing_1911 melvin_vaniman_pilot_of_the_akron


Dirigible Destroyed by Explosion in Atlantic City Tryout.


Make Attempt to Fly to Europe, Suddenly is Shattered When at Altitude of 1,000 Feet - Inventor's Brother One of the Victims.

Atlantic City, N. J. -- With their wives looking on and 20,000 other persons too stunned by the tragedy to utter a word, five men, the commander and crew of four of the mammoth dirigible balloon Akron, were killed instantly when it exploded 1,000 feet in the air. The men were MELVIN VANIMAN, constructor and commander of the airship; his brother, CALVIN VANIMAN, and GEORGE BOURRILION, WALTER GUEST and FRED ELMER. The bodies of only two, CALVIN VANIMAN and BOURRILION, were recovered. They were mangled badly. Those of the others are in the wreckage in Absecon Inlet, over which the explosion occurred. Divers have seen fragments of bodies in the tangle of wires that formed the car and made for the crew a fatal trap.

The does not seem a possibility that enough of any body may be recovered to make identification certain, unless it should be through clothing that may cling to it. The airship itself was blown almost to atoms. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but it is believed to have been caused by a too sudden expansion of gas.

MRS. VANIMAN and the three other widows, MRS. ELMER, MRS. BOURRILION and MRS. GUEST, who were sitting on the balcony of the VANIMAN cottage watching the balloon when it exploded are suffering from nervous prostration and are in the care of physicians.

The explosion now is laid to the experimenting of VANIMAN with a new theory in aerial navigation. Inside the great outer shell of the dirigible there was a gas bag under which were several small air chambers. It is thought VANIMAN took too much air in these compartments, compressed the gas to a danger point and the rays of the sun condensing it still further caused the tearing of the outer shell and the explosion.

Chateaugay Record New York 1912-07-05

Read more articles about the AKRON Disaster (below)