Dewey, William

Dewey, William         1918 February 22nd            Boscombe Down

Aeroplane Amok

An unusual fatality occurred at Boscombe Down Aerodrome on Monday, when an aeroplane was accidentally set in motion and careered around the Down, striking several other machines and causing the death of 2nd A/M William Dewey, whose home was in Portsmouth, and aged 19 years. An inquest was held by the Coroner for South Wilts (Mr F H Trethowan) on Wednesday at Amesbury Workhouse.

Flight Sergeant Henry Benjamin Southwell said that on Monday he was in charge of No 1 flying group at Boscombe, and saw the engine of a machine started off, and it was left with the propellor just turning over slowly, so that the water circulation might be kept going. There was no danger if the machine had not been touched, but he afterwards saw it travelling along at 60 or 70 miles an hour and striking other machines.

2nd A/M Charles Edwin Lawson said he had never been a passenger in a flight and knew nothing of flying, but he went to the machine to fix a camera, and he got into the observer’s seat for that purpose. The propellor was not then turning round. He heard someone shout: “Petrol on, stand clear of controls.” He saw no one in the pilot’s seat and noticed no controls in the back seat. Just after the word “controls” he heard the engine go, and it went faster and faster until he felt the machine was moving. He sat down and held on to the pillar of the seat and he recalled nothing else until the machine was stopped.

Major Harcourt, RFC, said he saw someone start the machine and afterwards saw it move slowly. In fixing a camera Lawson would necessarily be close to the throttle lever in the observer’s seat, but would have his back to it. The aeroplane travelled fast towards other machines that were on the ground, and struck three, and then started to go down hill, swung round and charged into two other machines. This brought it close to him, and he ran round to the tail, got in and switched off. He thought the machine must have been running for over five minutes. Dewey, the man who was killed, was near one of the machines that were struck.

Capt Pirie, RAMC, said the cause of death was fracture of the skull.

The jury returned a verdict that Dewey had been knocked down by an aeroplane which was not under control, and which had been accidentally set in motion.

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