Deal, NJ Dirigible Accident, Jul 1911


ASBURY PARK, N. J., July 17. - A. J. Roberts, an aeronaut, who started in a dirigible balloon from New York for Philadelphia Saturday, was found unconscious on the beach near Deal, N. J., Sunday.

When revived he said that in the night he was forced to pull the rip cord of his gas bag when his gasoline gave out and he found he was being carried out to sea. He dropped into the ocean half a mile from shore and by the aid of a chance plank he swam or floated ashore. The dirigible was swept off shore by the wind.

Roberts had made a landing about twelve or fifteen miles from New York and had made another ascension when his dirigible was struck by a squall and driven out over the ocean. His troubles were augmented by a fog which caused the gas in the bag to cool. The dirigible finally trailed in the water but by throwing out ballast Roberts managed to work it in shore.

Then he found his gasoline failing. He pulled the rip cord and presently dropped into the waves. He came across the plank while swimming about trying to get his bearings Even with this aid he became exhausted and thinks he must have floated ashore unconscious.

The Salt Lake Evening Telegram, Salt Lake City, UT 17 Jul 1911

Aeronaut Roberts Was Picked Up Unconscious on Beach


Special to The Inquirer.

ASBURY PARK, N. J., July 16. - Still too weak to move and so dazed that he could tell only an incoherent story of his experience, A. J. Roberts, an aeronaut, who started in his dirigible balloon from New York for Philadelphia, was found on the beach near Deal today. The balloonist had been forced to pull the rip cord of his gas bag when he found that the was being blown out to sea after his supply of gasoline gave out, and then when the balloon descended had to swim for nearly a mile through the surf to the shore. The gas bag was lost.

The aeronaut was found lying within a few feet of the high water mark on the Deal beach just before daylight today by "Jimmy" De Forest, a pugilintic trainer, who was taking a run along the sand. When he first saw the man lying on the beach he believed that it was the body of a drwoned man that had been brought in by the tide, but as he neared him, he saw Roberts move his arm.

Could Not Talk

Roberts could not talk when first found and De Forest, after summoning aid, had him taken to his training quarters at Allenhurst, where physicians partly revived the man. After being given stimulants and allowed to rest for a time, Roberts was finally strong enough to tell the physicians who he was and explained how he came to be on the beach. He said that he had ascended with his dirigible from the roof of a Broadway theatre yesterday and, finding the air currents favorable when he made his ascension, decided to continue the trip to Philadelphia, as had been planned for later in the day, and not to make his first flight an experimental one.

The aeronaut said that he had let the gas bag rise to about fifteen hundred feet at first and then after making a couple of circles had started in a westerly direction, passing over Englewood. Soon after he struck air currents that whirled him off his course and drove him away from the coast. He battled with the wind for several hours and finally just before dusk when he had brought the dirigible down to the lower air strata he was able to get it under control and started eastward for the coast.

He was making good progress when he passed Atlantic Highlands and was keeping very high, but soon after this he realized that his gasoline was rapidly giving out. At this time he hit another bad air current and again the balloon became unmanageable. For a time the balloon drifted toward the west, but then changed and again followed a southeasterly course.

Lost Idea of Time

Roberts lost all idea of the time, but believes it was about nine o'clock when the baloon was finally brought down to about 200 feet above the ground, but then it was drifting at top speed toward the open sea. Roberts endeavored to get it up again but his fuel supply was gone and he was helpless.

When off Deal Beach he saw the shore line fading in the distance and knew unless he came down at once he would soon be beyond hope of reaching land. Finally he determined to risk his life in the water instead of taking his chance of remaining in the air and pulled the rip cord which allowed the gas to escape from the silk and rubber envelope.

As the balloon dropped, Roberts dived from the framework on which his motor and steering apparatus had been supported and by fast swimming managed to get clear of the airship as it settled on the waves. Already tired out by his long fight with the air currents, the aeronaut had hardly strength to keep himself afloat, but after floating for a time made a final effort to swin to the shore.

Reward for the Engine

The last that Roberts remembers of his fight for life in the surf was seeing the lights of the cottages near the shore. He does not remember how he passed through the final line of breakers, his first return to consciousness being when he was resuscitated in the training quarters at Allenhurst. Roberts said he ripped the balloon before jumping into the surf and the air craft was taken out to sea, where it sank in sixty feet of water.

He has offered a reward of $1000 for the recovery of the engine, which he said was a valuable one. If the engine can be located off the shore, Roberts will probably employ a diver to recover it.

Roberts left for New York on an afternoon train.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 17 Jul 1911