Friday, June 19, 2009

Balloon Ascension – Fearful Accident

The Home News, September 15, 1860

The proposition of Mr. W. J. Shotts, to ascend in his balloon on Wednesday last, attracted a large crowd of people of both sexes, big and little, from far and near, to witness the daring feat. The tent was pitched in front of the National House on Second Street, around which the people also congregated. In consequence of the wind being rather high, the inflation of the great cotton bag did not commence till nearly five o’clock; but the filling material consisting of nothing but smoke and hot air, the operation was soon performed, when the voyager having taken his position, the monstrous thing arose gracefully into the atmosphere. When just above the tops of the houses, a current of air struck the balloon and careened it to an angle of 40 degrees. This must have strained it severely, for immediately afterward, before it righted itself, and at an altitude of about 300 feet, the people were horror struck by the bursting of the balloon on its under side from top to bottom. The smoke poured out and the balloon began to drop rapidly to the earth. In his frightful descent, Mr. Shotts appeared to be perfectly cool and collected, and reaching up his hands caught hold of the ropes by which his basket was suspended. He struck the ground a few feet from the river, where a score of hands were ready to tear the balloon from him, expecting to find a mangled mass of humanity. But in this they were fortunately disappointed. Though writhing in pain, on examination his principal hurt was discovered to be the breaking of his right leg in two places, below the knee, with slight scratches on his face. He was immediately taken to the National House, and duly cared for by the physicians in attendance. It was an astonishing escape from a horrible death. Mr. Shotts expects to be out again in a few weeks, ready to resume his daring occupation.

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