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First Plane Fatality


North Dakota’s earliest recorded airplane fatality occurred on this date in 1919, when a small plane went down near Sutton. Piloted by Lieutenant Edward Axberg of Enderlin, the plane was flying at 1200 feet before crashing into a field. Axberg and his friend, nineteen-year old Brian Karr from Jamestown, had spent the afternoon performing stunts, but when they attempted a tail-spin, Axberg was unable to right the plane. The resulting crash broke Karr’s legs and mangled much of his body; he died an hour and a half later, never regaining consciousness. Axberg survived, but was injured. With little understanding of planes at the time, the cause of the crash was blamed on “a failure of the machine to re-adjust itself rightly.”

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme Job

Hansboro News , Friday, August 29, 1919: p. 4.