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Death of a Parachutist

Posted on: July 16th, 2018 by Sue

Many people in Fletton Recreation Ground watched as a balloon, controlled from the ground by Alfred Norton, rose into the sky. In the balloon’s basket was Alfred’s partner, 36-year-old Annie Bassett. All were waiting for Annie to jump wearing a form of parachute. Annie came from the East End of London and was an experienced parachutist, having made thirty such jumps before. The plan was for her to ascend in the balloon and jump off wearing the parachute. However, something went wrong and Annie tragically fell to her death. At the inquest that followed, Alfred – who was described as a professional aeronaut – stated that when he gave to order to loosen the balloon, it rose, but not far enough to clear a tree and telegraph wires. With the balloon entangled, the parachute device worn by Annie became detached from the balloon. Alfred stated that he tried to stop Annie from jumping but that she, it appeared, misunderstood him. She leapt from a height of about 7o yards and ‘directly appeared to reach the ground’. The jurymen sitting at this inquest recommended ‘that since no useful purpose is served by these senseless exhibitions at which the lives of the performers are risked, they should be made illegal’. (Family History Magazine)

Taken from The Peterborough Book of Days by Brian Jones, The History Press, 2014.