Hampton Roads, Virginia – Airship ‘Roma’ Disaster, Feb 1922

As reported in the Essex County Republican of Fort Henry NY


Airship Roma

Big Dirigible ‘Roma’ Plunges 1,000 Feet To Earth, Capsizes Across Live Wire and Burns.

Thirty-four men were killed, eight were injured seriously and three were injured or only slightly bruised when the giant army airship Roma, with her crew and a number of civilians, totaling 45 in all aboard, plunged Tuesday from a thousand feet or more in the air to the ground at the Hampton Roads Naval base.
The accident presumably was caused by a broken rudder and as the big dirigible plunged to earth it capsized across a high tension electric line bursting in a roaring furnace of blazing hydrogen gas.
Long after dark Tuesday night many hours after her fall, the ship was still a mass of flames from end to end of her 140 foot mass. The fire fed on the million cubic feet of gas which had distended the great bag for the flight and made all attempt at rescue futile.
Barely a dozen of those aboard were picked up alive and one of those died on the way to the hospital. All of those who survived the fire escaped by jumping as the ship struck. The others penned in the hull were burned to death.

Airship Roma wreckage

Accounts of survivors and of eye witnesses as to what had happened appeared to agree that the huge kite-like structure of the stern rudder, itself as large as a bombing plane, had slipped to one side as the Roma drove along a thousand feet above the army base.
She was making a trial flight with a new battery of Liberty motors. They were installed to replace Italian engines brought with her from Italy, but which have not proved satisfactory. Installation was completed at Langley field two weeks ago.
The Roma was the largest semi-rigid dirigible in the world and cost the United States $200,000. The accident is akin to the destruction of the ZR-2 in England last August when 44 officers and men perished.
An official list of the survivors, dead and missing in the Roma disaster was received from Langley Field by the army air service Tuesday night. The address, however, in most cases were unavailable. The list follows:

Identified Dead

           First Lieut. WILLIAM E. RILEY


           Captain WALTER J. REED
           Major JOHN D. REARDON
           First Lieutenant CLARENCE H. WELCH
           Lieut. B. G. BURT, pilot,
           Sergeant HARRY A. CHAPMAN
           Sergeant VIRDEN T. PECK
           Sergeant JOSEPH M. BIEDENBACK
           Corporal FLORES; CHARLES DWORACK
           RAY HURLEY
           WALTER A. McNAIR


           Major JOHN G. THORNELL
           Major WALTER W. VAUTMIER
           Captain DALE MABRY
           Captain GEO. D. WATTS
           Captain ALLEN F. McFARLAND
           Captain DURSCHMIDT
           First Lieut. J. R. HALL
           First Lieut. C. BURNS
           First Lieut. CLIFFORD E. SMYTHE
           First Lieut. WALLACE C. CUMMINGS
           First Lieut. AMBROSE V. CLINTON
           First Lieut. HAROLD HINE
           Master Sergeant McNALLY
           Master Sergeant MURRY
           Master Sergeant GORBY
           Sergeant HARRIS
           Sergeant HILLIARD
           Sergeant BEAL
           Sergeant YARBOROUGH
           Sergeant RYAN
           Sergeant HUFFMAN
           Sergeant SCHUMACHER
           Sergeant HOLMES
           Sergeant HESTERON
           Private KINIGSTON
           Private BLAKELY
           Private THOMPSON
           Private HILL