Pemberville, OH Mail Service Plane Explosion, Sept 1920
All-metal craft, crippled in air, takes
fire reaching field near Toledo
Explodes on landing
Special to The New York Times.
CLEVELAND, Sept. 14 — Strapped
in their seats in one of the new Junker
type all-metal airplanes installed in the
Air Mail Service between New York and
Chicago, pilot Walter Stevens, known
as the "Pathfinder " of
the Air Mall Service, and Russell Thomas,
his mechanic, were burned to death
this afternoon when the gasoline tank
of their plane exploded after they made
a forced landing near Pemberville, between
Cleveland and Toledo.
Stevens and Thomas, the latter of
Cleveland, are the third and fourth to
die in two weeks in the same sort of
Accordlns to dispatches from Toledo,
residents of Woodville, a few miles from
Pemberville, noticed the plane's flight
this afternoon because of the low altitude
at which it was flying and the
noise its engine made, which they reported
sounded as if the machinery were
They believed that Stevens was trying
to find a safe landing for the plane,
for the flyer headed up again to 1,500
feet altitude almost at once, and then
headed for a pasture of the farm owned
by Fred Samson, north of Pemberville.
As they saw the plane dropping for
the field the watchers made
for the Samson Farm.
The plane landed apparently safely.
Just as it did so, however, the gasoline
tank exploded and the engine was driven
forty feet into the soil, while everything
flammable in the plane broke
into flames. By the time the fire was
put out both men were dead.
Postmaster George N. Lathrop of Toledo
announced he would hold the remains
of the wreck, at Toledo until further orders
from the heads of the mail service.
Pilot Stevens, who was 40-years old,
had helped to plot the first postal air
route from New York. In the last few
weeks he had been flying over the
Rocky Mountains In an attempt to map
out the air mail route between Chicago
and the Pacific. His home was in
Thomas, the mechanician, lived at 648
East 126th Street, Cleveland, and had
been married but four days.
This was to have been Stevens's last
trip as an air mail pilot. He had just
signed a contract to do work for the
Glenn L. Martin Company plant and
was to have begun in his new position
The explosion scattered the 400 pounds
of mail carried by the plane all over
the Samson farm. Postmaster J. S.
Gotsell of Luckey, near Pemberville,
took charge of all mail that could be
Sept. 15, 1920 edition of The New York Times