Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Ohio Moments


First U.S. dirigible broke up over Ava

On Sept. 3, 1925, the first dirigible built in the United States - the Navy's USS Shenandoah - was on a Midwest publicity tour when it broke up in the sky over Ava in Noble County, Ohio.

The air ship had departed Lakehurst, N.J., on Sept. 2. When it reached Noble County just after 4 p.m. the next day, it encountered a violent storm. As people on the ground watched, the ship was carried to a height of more than 6,000 feet, plunged, then ascended again - until it broke into three pieces. Two pieces plummeted to the ground, killing the captain and 13 other crew members.

The bow, carrying seven people, continued on. An hour later, over Sharon, Ohio, it was low enough for the crew to call out to farmer Ernest Nichols for help. Nichols grabbed a trailing cable, tied the ship to a tree, and fetched two shotguns. After jumping to the ground, crew members shot holes into the dirigible to release its helium.

Over the next two days, about 10,000 people visited the wreckage near Ava. Many stripped the ship for souvenirs. The 680-foot-long Shenandoah was 2 years old.

Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.




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