State Fair Thrill
Jumper Is Killed
By Fred Mendell
"We want to introduce you to a young man ---
while we can," the State Fair grandstand announcer said Tuesday
Half an hour later the man was dead.
He was Deny Midland*, St. Paul, parachutist.
He died instantly when his chute failed to open.
The tragedy momentarily stunned the crow of 12,000 persons in
the grandstand, gathered for the motor races.
Midland, who had been working his way through the University of
Minnesota by making parachute jumps, was killed when his parachute didn't
open in time.
The jump was programmed as a "1,000 foot fall and delayed chute
The chute "popped" when Midland was less than 200 feet in the air.
It was starting to open --- but was still just a ribbon --- when Midland hit
Merle Cecil, captain in the Hutchinson fire department, watched the
jump through field glasses.
"I saw him step from the plane," Cecil said. "He had fallen only a
hundred feet or so when I saw him clawing at the rip cord. He seemed to be
fighting the chute. Then his arm swung free and the chute streamed out
but it was too late."
The plane was about 1200 feet in the air when Midland jumped.
Midland fell in a cane field, about 200 yards east of Plum and the
same distance north of 17th.
His crushed body was embedded, face down, in the earth. The
body was covered by the silk of he chute.
Few persons in the stands were immediately aware anything had gone
wrong. Many persons on the ground thought the whole show was a stunt,
that a dummy had been tossed from the plane.
It had been announced that Midland would try to control the jump so
that he would land on the track infield.
He seemed too far east to be aiming for the infield when he stepped
from the plane, but the fall was in full view of the crowd. His crash
to the crowd was screened from the stands by the high board fence circling
Probably most of the fair patrons were only
vaguely aware anything had gore wrong. They had watched as the plane
the field. They seemed to be holding breath as Midland plummeted downward,
falling as if in a rocking chair. There was an audible intake of air
as the chute streamed out. Then Midland was out of sight, but many may
have thought the chute opened in time.
Officials knew something had gone wrong.
Mrs.. Frank Winkley, racing judge yelled, "It should open now ---
now --- get it out there kid --- now --- now --- it isn't opening --- Its
too late!" all in one breath.
Stuart Reamer, announcer for the auto races, who had joked with the
blond haired youth while introducing him on the public address system,
dispatched the ambulance.
The hurdy-gurdy of amusement devices back of the stands could be
heard above the quiet murmur of the crowd. The tension wasn't broken
until Reamer called for music from the band. It was Reamer's
unpleasant duty to infirm the crowd Midland had been killed.
But the show went on. Midland's stunt was programmed just
before the feature race. The roaring cars seemed to restore the normal
tenor of the fair.
Midland spoke a few words to the crowd before making the jump.
"We want to introduce you to a young man --- while we can," said
Reamer. Then he explained how Midland would jump from a plane and fall
as far as he dared before pulling the cord.
"How far do you dare fall before pulling that
chute out?" asked Reamer of Midland.
"Well," said Midland with a big grin, "If it doesn't open at 200
feet it will be too late."
Midland came to Hutchinson in his own car. He mad
arrangements with Ed Isaacs, Wichita, distributor for Piper Cubs, to take
The plane circled four times above the stands.
Midland made his jump at 3:48 p.m.
John Zentner, CAA** safety inspector from Wichita, checked
Midland's chute after the jump.
He will make a report to the CAA office at Kansas City.
Zentner said the front-pack emergent chute had not been opened.
Frank Winkley, auto race promoter, said he had not met Midland
before Tuesday. Winkley had contracted for a jumper with Don Kruse,
Minneapolis stunt talent agent. When Midland arrived here he simply
told Winkley, "I'm your man."
Midland had been booked for a low altitude jump. He believed
iut would be too hazardous because of the high wind, and offered to do a
delayed jump instead.
"I'll give you a good delay," he said.
"I don't want to do it too good," Winkley answered." "It's
windy up there and I want you to be careful."
The parachute belonged to Twin City Parachute Co., Minneapolis.
Midland had several others of the same make in his car.
Winkley believed Midland had delayed too long in attempting to open
the chute, then may have had trouble with it momentarily.
"But I believe he would have been okay, if he'd had another 50 or
60 feet leeway," Winkley said. "It was a streamer when he hit but it
looked like it was starting to blossom."
Patrolman Bob Wingert of the Hutchinson Police Department
recognized the name when Midland had been in his division overseas.
Both hd been paratroopers in the 82nde Airborne Division, 508th regiment in
World War 2.
"I didn't know him personally," Wingert said, "but we'd been to the
same places. We talked about war experiences at Frankfurt and
Heidelberg. It was just like meeting an old buddy."
"Then just a few minutes later i helped pull hijm out of the
Midland was about 27y years old. His home address is 2167
Dudley Ave., St Paul. a brother and a sister are enroute to
Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas) · Wed, Sep 20, 1950 · Page 2]
* The surname "Mydland" was consistently misspelled as
** CAA - the federal Civil Aeronautics Authority (predecessor of the Federal