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Balloon Crash
April 16, 1893

The Morning Call, San Francisco, Monday, April 17, 1893


The Woman Parachutist's Dread Ascent.
A Balloon Catches Fire and Is Borne
Blazing Over the Roofs—The Victim's Condition.
A thousand people witnessed a terrible scene at the Cliff House yesterday.
A young woman, utterly powerless to assist herself, was borne aloft clinging to a burning balloon, and was dashed with cruel force against a neighboring building.
Both her lower limbs were instantly broken and other severe and possibly fatal injuries sustained.
The fearful suddenness of the catastrophe, the spectacle of the hapless woman and the blazing machine, inextricably connected, and both at the mercy of a headlong gale combined to produce a thrilling spectacle that will leave an indelible impression upon the minds of its horrified witnesses.
An additional element of pathos was lent to the sad affair by the circumstances surrounding its victim. She had only been a bride a few weeks, and appears to have had a strange presentiment against making the ascent.
A balloon ascension bad been advertised to take place at 2:30 pm, the aeronaut to be "King of the Clouds." This meant Frank Hagal. In his place his bride of six weeks, Lillie Hagal, appeared.
A fierce wind blowing landward rendered it necessary to raise a windbreak of canvas. This was lowered once, as the ropes holding it were found unable to bear the strain. In spite of the windbreak it required the services of twenty or thirty men and boys to hold the balloon as it tilled with hot air from the furnace below.
As it writhed and twisted in their grasp the aeronaut, clad in gaudy blue cotton tights, fastened herself to the parachute with which she was to descend. From time to time she would glance anxiously at the swelling balloon, but she said nothing.
As the balloon filled, a voice from behind the screen was lizard to cry: "Let her go. She'll catch fire."
"Hold her," shouted Hagal; "she's not full yet."
But the first call had done its work. A dozen men had loosed their hold. The pulley on the land side was held loner than the one the side toward the sea. The supporting pole on the east fell. The wind was blowing fiercely toward the land. Everything tended to keep the balloon from going directly upward.
As it rose from the ground Hagal leaped for the ropes, crying:
"For God's sake, men, hold it! For God's sake, don't leave go!"
A gust of wind pulled the rope from his grasp, and, as the balloon was held for the moment over the furnace, the flames caught the inflammable sides.
As it rose burning, the gaping crowd at first seemed amused at the woman's endeavors to free herself. Their amusement speedily changed to anxiety, then to horror, as they saw the balloon rise and be dashed toward the large building at the terminus of the railroad.
For an instant it seemed as if it would pass over the building with its human freight.
Then an involuntary "Oh!" came from the horror-stricken assemblage as the woman was dashed against the side of the building, smashing in the frame and glass of a window. The balloon passed just over the eaves.
The now unconscious woman was dragged over the building, striking the house again and breaking a window in the next story.
By this time the flames had eaten a great hole in the side of the balloon. The hot air escaping, it descended so that the ropes balding Mrs. Hagal were caught in the eaves of an adjoining building.
She hung, suspended about twelve feet from the ground for several minutes. A man then mounted the roof and severed the ropes binding her to the parachute, and the limp, lifeless body fell into the arms of her distracted husband beneath.
She was carried to the kitchen of a neighboring restaurant. There it was found that she was yet alive, but as she was carried to the train, her lower limbs dangling helplessly revealed the fact that both were broken below the hips. This fracture must have been made when she struck the building the first time.
Mrs. Hagal is a slight, pretty young woman, about 25 years old. She is quiet and retiring and is well liked.
A young lady in speaking of the matter said: "Next Friday will make six weeks that Lillie has been married. They had only been married a few days when Mr. Hagal asked her how she would like to go up in a balloon. She thought he was fooling and said she thought it would be fine.
"His response was, 'All right; you shall go up next Sunday.'
"When she found he was in earnest she didn't like to eat her words, so she made the ascent. It was a failure though, because she was so scared she didn't have the strength to pull the rope that loosed the parachute.
"The second and third ascensions were all right. This was the fourth. She didn't want to go up at all. She told Frank [her husband] that the wind was blowing too hard, and that it was too cold. But he said it was all right, and for her to get ready.
"It's a drawing card to have a woman make ascension, and the railroad people paid him extra for that. But he was advertised to go up this time, and 1don't see why he didn't do it."
"Just fifteen minutes before the balloon went up," said another young lady, whose eyes were red with crying, "Lillie ran down to her husband to ask him if she must go up. He said yes, to she came back and got dressed".
Frank Hagal, when seen late in the evening, said that the balloon was loosed too soon.
"It was not nearly full. Besides, the ropes were not loosed properly, though I had told the man how to do it a dozen times.
"The balloon caught fire, but that would not have mattered if the balloon had only been buoyant enough to have risen high from
 the ground. I have often gone up with the balloon on fire and made successful leap."
The injured woman was carried to the Receiving Hospital. Here it was found that both legs were broken midway between the hip and knee, and there was a long cut in the right leg. There were several bruises on the face. The nose was torn open, but the bone was not broken. She was treated by Dr. Kaufman, who says that with good treatment she may recover, as she shows remarkable vitality, and the shock of the accident does not seen to have seriously affected her. There are a few bruises about the body and there may be some internal injuries not yet apparent. The effects of such a fearful shock to a delicate woman are especially feared.
Mrs. Hagal before her marriage was known as Lillie Dean, and was a waitress in one of the downtown restaurants.
When Mrs. Hagal struck against the second house, the balloon, being held fast, was blown to the ground by the wind. There it was burned to ashes.
A woman, whose name could not be learned, in her eagerness to see the injured balloonist, stepped into the tire. In an instant her clothes were ablaze. She ran shrieking into a house, where some thoughtful person wrapped her in a tablecloth and extinguished the flames.

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The Morning Call, San Francisco, Monday, April 24, 1893



He Positively Refuses to Allow Balloon Ascensions at the Cliff.

There will be no more balloon ascensions from the Cliff House.

Adolph Sutro has ordered the railroad company to remove their poles and other paraphernalia from his grounds. The danger accompanying an ascent from any place about the Cliff is the reason he gives for his action. There is always a strong breeze blowing toward land in the afternoon and the slightest accident to the balloon renders a repetition of last Sunday's accident liable. Therefore Mr. Sutro has positively refused to allow any more ascensions to be made from his property.

As he owns all the land west of Baker's Beach this means that the exhibitions at the Cliff are a thing of the past.

Mrs. Hagal, the injured balloonist, who had both her legs broken in the accident at the beach, is steadily improving. There were no internal injuries, as it was feared there might be.

The doctors say that in two months she be well enough to be removed from the hospital. It will be nearly six months before she will be able in walk.

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Oswego Daily Times - May 18 1898