Preakness, NJ Airplane Crash, May 1921


William Coates ex-army flier, and a
woman passenger were killed in a 2,000-
foot nose dive at Preakness, N. J., yesterday
afternoon when the wings of
Coates's plane crumpled in mid-air. The
woman was Mrs. John Brady of Paterson,
bride of less than a year. Her
husband, an Internal Revenue Agent in
Newark, living at 15 Ryle Avenue,
Paterson, missed only by seconds the
end of the fatal flight on which he had
gaily sped his wife but a few minutes
earlier. Brady reached the spot where
his wife and close friend had been flung
from the misshapen wreckage of their
c r a f t in time to take Mrs. Brady in his
arms and beg her to speak to him. His
pleading was in vain, both had died instantly.
Coates, whose home was in Harrington,
Del., was chief flying instructor at
Roosevelt Field in wartime. Officers
there still remember him as a venturesome,
but cool-headed and deft pilot.
His last accident was his tenth. In December
he dropped a thousand feet in
a crippled monoplane, escaping with a
broken leg from which he was still limping
when he started his flight yesterday.
In July 1920 he dropped 3,000 feet with
a passenger into the pines at Monticello,
N. Y., and both he and the passenger
were unscathed. The flight that was to
be his last was the first for Mrs. Brady
Brady was an enthusiastic flight fan.
He frequently had been up with Coates,
and at last his young wife became fired
with the desire to see what it was like
'just once.' Coates had been making
regular flights with passengers from the
Preakness Airdrome for some months
under the direction of Nicholas Schoendorfer.
It was late yesterday afternoon
when he came down after taking up
a photographer, who made pictures of
Andrea Peyre doing stunts from another
airplane. The little crowd which
had watched the woman's thrilling performance
melted away, but Coates
found that Brady had arrived in his
automobile, bringing his wife for a
Mrs. Brady Courageous
Coates consented and climbed into the
two-seated, single-engined Curtiss biplane.
Mrs. Brady was made snug in
the passenger's seat, and John Otter,
the flier's mechanic, spun the propeller.
As Coates raced and slowed his engine
to make sure all was well, he and
Brady chaffed the young woman, who
took it all in good part, insisting that
she was not afraid.
A few loungers on the porches of
nearby cottages gazed at the receding
automobile, then at the droning craft,
now 2,000 feet in the air. They saw
Coates sail lazily away toward Paterson,
then come circling back. Then they
saw him loop the loop a time or two,
but that was a familiar sight, and they
took little interest.
Suddenly, every watcher stiffened into
tense anxiety. They saw, first, the
right wing obliterated, as if it had been
swiftly folded to the fuselage. The Curtiss
careened drunkenly, the frantic efforts
of the man to right it were just
perceptible, then the other wing was
Pilot Was Helpless
There were quick, 'sickening' seconds
after that. Head-on, spinning as it
dived, the plane hurled itself earthward,
tumbling faster and faster. There was
nothing Coates could do, resourceful as
he was, with the machine bereft of its
The bi-plane thudded down with such
momentum that its nose tore its way
six feet into the ground. The engine
was torn loose from the frame and
spilled out in the hail of flying chips
from the smashed propeller and the
spray of gasoline from the crumpled
tank. A few struts, topped by a rudder,
were about all that was left.
As Brady, came driving slowly back
along the road he saw a half dozen
men and women running toward a field
across the turnpike from the airdrome
and not more than a hundred feet away
from the spot where he had seen Coates
take off. He knew at once what had happened.
The bodies were taken to Crandall's
Morgue in Paterson.

May 21, 1921 edition of "The New York Times"