Article from the Denver Post, August 22, 1912, pages 1 & 2
Transcribed by Barbara Lewellen, 1-29-06

George Thompson, of Denver, Killed While Flying at Lamar
Machine Struck Air Pocket and Plunges 200 feet,
Engine Falling on Top of Airman
  Lamar, Colo, Aug 22-Three thousand people saw George Thompson, the young aviator of Denver, plunge to death at the Prowers county fair grounds shortly after 6 o'clock last evening from a height of 200 feet, when his Mathewson biplane struck an air pocket and became unmanageable. An hour before Thompson was killed, the same crowd witnessed the dangerous injury of Jockey Russell Durrough, who was trampled by horses in a race when he was thrown from his mount.

Aviator Thompson lived an hour after he fell in his machine to earth. He recovered consciousness and recognized his flying partner, G. Van Arsdale, also of Denver. Thompson died of internal hemorrhages and not by being impaled by the broken rods and braces of the biplane. Not a bone in his body was broken and there were no external cuts or abrasions. The lower two ribs on the left side were torn from the spine and his liver was torn loose. He also had a contusion of the brain and his right eye was almost forced from its socket by hemorrhage back of that organ. The tearing away of the ribs from the spine and the displacing of the liver caused the abdominal cavity to fill with blood, resulting in death.


Five physicians who witnessed the accident were at Thompson's side within three minutes after he fell, and under the skillful direction of Dr. J. H. Kellogg, coroner of Prowers county, did everything within their power for the injured man. It was seen from the first, however, that his death was inevitable. Stimulants were administered and then Thompson was placed on a mattress, following which oxygen was administered. When Thompson was revived ,he recognized his flying parnter, Van Arsdale, and called him by name.

Thompson did not meet death as the result of his aeroplane colliding with a cottonwood tree as he was ascending; he was hurtling to death in the biplane before he struck the tree, which, if anything, in a small measure, checked his terrific plunge to death. The machine was falling at an angle of eight degrees and as it crashed by the tree, it broke off several of the top limbs.


All the time the biplane was plunging to the earth Thompson, who could be plainly seen by the people in the grandstand and along the race course, was making frantic efforts to right the machine and regain its equilibrium. The aviator remained in his seat until the machine struck the ground and was utterly wrecked.

One end of the engine bed fell on the right side of his back, tearing the two lower ribs from the spine. The displacement of the liver and the jarring of the other internal organs of the aviator were caused by the terrific vibrations of the engine, which continued running until one of the aviator's assistants reached the scene and stopped it.

Thompson and Van Arsdale delayed preparations for the fatal flight until 5:30 o'clock, neither one believing that the atmospheric conditions up to that time were favorable for a successful flight. Even at 5:30 o'clock Thompson expressed some dissatisfaction but rather than disappoint the big crowd, decided to start.


The machine was taken from the hangar and thoroughly tested by both Thompson and Van Arsdale. Everything was found to be in good condition. Then the bi-plane was wheeled to the race track in front of the grandstand and Thompson climbed into the seat. He tested the varous controlling levers once more, started the engine and when the motor reached the proper number of revolutions, gave the word to release the biplane. The first start proved false and the machine was brought back for the second attempt.

Again Thmpson gave the word and the machine sailed along the ground for 150 feet to where one of his partners was standing and who signaled for him to rise, which he did. Thompson cleared the telephone wires and darted off toward Lamar. He rose to an elevation of about 200 feet, and after going 350 yards from where he had started, the left wing of his machine was seen to dip and the biplane began to drop at an angle of about 45 degrees. Thompson endeavored to turn the machine in order to make a complete circle, but the machine kept going downward and crashed to the ground.


The machine fell on top of Thompson and his feet became entangled in the wires of the bicycle wheels and those of the steering apparatus. He lay face downward. The corner of the bed or frame upon which the engine rests, called the engine bed, was resting upon the right side of his back, above the right kidney. Two men, the first to reach him, released him from the wires and when other persons arrived the machine was lifted off the man, the engine being stopped by one of the mechanics.


Harry L. Thompson, father of George Thompson, the Denver aviator, who was killed yesterday afternoon at Lamar, Colorado said this morning:

"I did not believe that George would ever fly again after talking about an aviator who was killed a week ago. Last Sunday I had a long talk with him and thought he had given it up. He told me that it would get all of the aviators in time."

Mr. Thompson said he never saw his son fly, but always had intended to do so. "He said he thought he would rather be an aeroplane manufacturer and let the other fellow, who did not value his life as much, do the flying," said Mr. Thompson.


Monday morning, Thompson came home in a hurry and packed his suitcase. His sister was the only person home at the time.

"George, you are not going away to fly, are you?" she said.

Then she begged and pleaded with him not to go. He said the Mathewson company had a contract with the Lamar Fair company, and they had to fufill it, and he was the only person to fly in their new machine.

Thompson told his sister he thought that he was through flying, but the company did not dare to break their contract. He said the engine in the new machine was too light for such a heavy aeroplane and that he had telegraphed Aviator Glenn Curtiss and tried to get him to carry out the contract on this account. Curtiss insisted that Thompson forward a copy of the contract made with the Lamar fair people.


Thompson was associated with the Mathewson Aeroplane company of Denver and was one of the attractions at Lakeside during August of last year, where in a Mathewson machine, he made daily flights.

His flights were so spectacular that he kept the crowds who witnessed them in a constant state of suspense. He often obtained a speed of a mile a minute, and would rise to such heights that the aeroplane was nothing but a speck in the sky. He darted between buildings and seemed to enjoy seeing how closely he could fly to the surface of the lake.

During the Harvest Home festival at Loveland in August, 1911, while making an exhibition flight Thompson's machine turned over and hurled him in the wreckage. He escaped with a wrenched shoulder and a few scratches.

Thompson lived at 4554 West 33rd avenue.


Denver Aviator Killed as Machine Turns Turtle
George Thompson Impaled by steel in Wreckage
  DENVER AVIATOR WHO FELL to his death, machine in which he attempted fatal flight, the man who made it and sketch depicting accident. The photograph on the rigtht is of George Thompson; below to left is Lynn Mathewson, who invented the biplane.  
George Thompson

Matthewson Flyer; Who Thrilled Lakeside Audiences Last
Year, Dies at Lamar.

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