Crowds gathered at Lancaster Park in 1899 to see Captain Charles Lorraine ascend in his balloon.
Captain Lorraine was the stage name of Auckland-born David Mahoney who became transfixed with ballooning while in England in 1892.
Mahoney was born April 19, 1874, growing up in Parnell.
After schooling he found work at Hoffman’s music factory and developed a love for performing.
He moved to Australia then on to England where he got a chance to use a gas filled balloon for the first time.
After that Mahoney reinvented himself. He saved the money to buy his own balloon, called himself Captain Lorraine after his ballooning mentor, and on his return to New Zealand in 1899, began making a name for himself as a performing parachutist, dropping from his balloon, called Empress, sometimes as high as 15,000 feet (who on earth could see him up there??) to do gymnastics for the waiting crowds.
On November 2, 1899 he can have had no idea that things were going to go so wrong. After all, he had performed the stunts many times before.
He had told The Press: “Christchurch is the ideal place for a balloonist, and if the wind does not carry me too far, I am going to try and break my record of 20,000 ft.”
He set off about 4pm, his balloon filled with coal gas, soaring high before disaster hit. His parachute came loose and unfurled, becoming unusable.
A shocked crowd saw him try to grab hold of it to save his only way back to earth but it fell leaving Lorraine rising on a strong north-west wind and heading out to sea until he was just a black speck to the watching crowds, including his wife Frances (nee Juriss).
Desperately he tried to pop the balloon. Lorraine was spotted near Godley Heads before he and the balloon fell into the sea
His body was never recovered.
He is considered New Zealand’s first aviation fatality. He was only 25 years old.
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