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Weather Bureau Kite Observer Killed
Different sizes of kites used for upper air observations

Weather Bureau Kite Observer Killed

By Chris Geelhart (Chris.Geelhart@noaa.gov)

From the August 1919 issue of Weather Bureau Topics and Personnel:


Mr. Charles H. Heckelsmiller, unskilled laborer, was killed by lightning at Ellendale, N. Dak., on August 28, 1919. Mr. Heckelsmiller had served only 10 days and was struck while assisting in a kite flight. Immediate efforts for resuscitation were made and two physicians were on the scene within 15 minutes. A severe burn was found across Mr. Heckelsmiller's chest and on the inner side of his right wrist. The kite flight was nearly completed and three of the six kites had been landed. It appears that Mr. Heckelsmiller was holding a splice wire in his hand and was standing close to the main kite wire when the flash occurred. At the time of the flash two employees were in the reel house and they state that the house was filled with flame. A line of sparks resembling a huge skyrocket was seen to follow up the wire and these set the grass beneath on fire, as the ground was very dry, no rain having fallen for nearly two weeks. About 1,750 meters of wire were out at the time, and it was completely fused in the air.

This is the first accident of its kind that has occurred to an employee of the Weather Bureau during the period of about 25 years in which the Weather Bureau has engaged in kite observation work.