Sunday, June 17, 1928 began as a pleasant, slightly windy day at Ferryall Field in Hudson. Among those present at the airfield was George “Chappy” Lennox, a 24 year old licensed aviator with a recently purchased American eagle type plane. It had been flown several times the preceding week and had just returned from a short test run. By all involved and observing at the field, the plane was running perfectly. “Chappy” and the plane were set to fly and provide passenger rides over the Hudson/Nashua area. Also present were two well known residents of Nashua; each hoping to be on the first passenger trip of the day. Marcel Theriault, age 43, and Miss Kathryn L. Thomas, age 22 were engaged in a friendly discussion as to who would be the first passenger of the day. Mr. Theriault yielded to chilvery and offered that Miss Thomas ride first. She, out of respect, offered that he ride first. They settled the discussion by agreeing to both be passengers on the first flight of the day.
Kathryn Thomas was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Thomas of Nashua. He was a prominent official with the Boston and Maine Railroad and a friend of the Theriault Family. Present with her at the airfield were a brother and her fiance Dr. Linwood Farrington of Lowell.
Marcel Theriault was native to New Brunswick, Canada and moved to Nashua at a young age. After graduating law at Boston University in 1914 he entered into a partnership with a Nashua firm. He left the partnership in 1920 and worked in Concord for a time and then returned to Nashua and purchased Riverside Farm (later Hayward Farm), one of the largest in the state. Present with him at the airfield was his youngest son, Albert then age 15.
Both passengers wore helmets and flying goggles. His was of canvas and hers of black felt. The pilot drove the plane to the south corner of the field so as to take advantage of its entire length during take-off. At a height of 50-100 feet the pilot saw flames in the cockpit and quickly and intentionally banked the plane in an attempt to bring it down in adjacent ploughed ground. The plane struck the ground head on. The pilot leaped from the plane and then returned to it in an attempt to help the passengers. The flames drove him away and he rolled to the ground to smother the fire which had ignited his clothing. “Chappy” was taken to the hospital in Nashua in a nearby auto. He remained hospitalized in critical condition for some time.
Death to the passengers came in an instant. The plane was immediately engulfed in flames when gasoline from the tank ignited and consumed the plane down to its steel framework. This accident and death of two well known Nashua residents shocked both communities. Mr. Theriault, a former lawyer and state senator, chose to be burried on his Riverside Farm on Broad Street. In 1965, after a recent purchase and proposal for a shopping center, the Theriault family removed his remained from the secluded gravesite to Pine Knoll Cemetery in Hannover.
Hudson Police Chief, Harry J. Connell was early at the scene. Based upon his and other investigations the tragedy was declared an unavoidable accident.
The account of this accident appeared in the June 18, 1928 edition of the Nashua Telegrph. Oddly enough, that same paper and the same page, told readers of Amelia Earharts’ flight over the Atlantic – being the first girl to accomplish such a flight.
This weeks photo shows the burned remains of the American eagle type plane at Farryall Field. Behind the remains are James A. Sherlock, Harry J. Connell, and Fred Mears. This photo and the newspaper article are a recent addition to our collection at the Historical Society.