Loomis, NE Stratosphere Balloon EXPLORER Breaks Apart, Jul 1934

10:35 a.m.-The balloonists reported they were “Practically stalled” at a 14,000-foot stage about 12 miles south-southeast of Rapid City.

12:04 p.m.-Altitude 40,200 feet and leveled off. “We’re awfully busy,” radioed the crew, “call you back.”

12:18 p.m.-Balloon gave position as 20 miles south of Ainsworth, Neb., with the temperature 58 degrees below zero.

1:19 p.m.-Located about 10 miles east of North Platte, Neb.

2:13 p.m.-Altitude 52,000 feet, said expected to start down about 3 p.m. C.S.T.

2:25 p.m.-Radio engineers overheard Major Kepner tell his crew that the bag was torn and they would have to start down.

2:30 p.m.-Major Kepner announced they were descending from 55,000 feet. To requests that he broadcast form the bag, Major Kepner replied “What for?’ We’re in trouble up here.”

3 p.m.-Descending at the rate of 500 feet a minute from 50,000 feet. About 20 miles east of North Platte, Neb. Omaha ground crew racing for the scene.

3:14 p.m.-Capt. Albert W. Stevens reported by radio that the crew was “trying to bring it down easy.”

3:30 p.m.-Down to 45,000 feet now and Major Kepner is joking with the radio operator at Rapid City, S.D.

4:02 p.m.-Major Kepner reported that the “bottom of the balloon looked like a sieve.” The altitude was 30,000 feet. Radio communication was interrupted as the crew labored with their stricken craft. The approximate location was near Lexington, Neb.

4:28 p.m.-Major Kepner reported they had reached the 11,000 foot stage, “From where we can jump.”

4:47 p.m.-Radio communication with the stricken balloon was shut off.

San Diego Union, San Diego, CA 29 Jul 1934


Gondola Split Open Like Egg By Ax Wielders

Loomis, Neb., July 28 (A.P.)-A 5000-ffot plunge ended the 10 hour stratosphere flight of the balloon “Explorer” late today and damaged the gondola so badly that its three army pilots who escaped by parachute at the last minute were uncertain about the safety of their ton of valuable instruments.

The metal gondola, with the split balloon fabric trailing behind it like a giant flag thumped into a barren field and flattened out some what like a squash.

Ax in hand, Maj. William E. Kepner led his two companions, Capt. A.W. Stevens and Capt. Orvil A. Anderson, in an attack on the gondola to rescue instruments.

By nightfall the gondola was split open like an egg and the instruments in their boxes lay around on the ground.

“I won’t know until we’ve checked the recording films the scientific results of the ascension,” said Major Kepner.

San Diego Union, San Diego, CA 29 Jul 1934