On December 10, 1881 in what must have been one of the earliest fatal air accidents in Dorset, the balloon ‘Saladin’ crashed into a field at Eypesmouth. The 1882 Edition of the Annual Register,which was a review of public events at home and abroad for the year 1881 reported the event as follows.
“The Government balloon ‘Saladin’, of Woolwich, in charge of Captain James Templer, R.E., Mr. Walter Powell, M.P. for Malmesbury, and Mr. Gardner, left Bath about midday, and, crossing over Somerset to Exeter, proceeded thence to the neighbourhood of Bridport, Dorset. The aeronauts continued their course till near Eypesmouth, which is about one mile west of Bridport, and within half a mile of the sea, when, finding they were rapidly drifting seaward, they attempted to descend. The balloon came down with great rapidity, and striking the ground with great violence, Mr. Gardner and Captain Templer were both thrown out of the car, the former sustaining a fracture of the leg, and the latter being cut and bruised. Mr. Powell remained in the car, and the balloon instantly rose with him to a great height and went rapidly out to sea. A steamer from Weymouth and boats from Bridport, as well as the lifeboat from Lyme Regis, were sent in pursuit, but they returned from their search without meeting with success. The French and Spanish authorities gave instructions to their agents and officers to look out for the ‘Saladin’, but notwithstanding a long and careful search, in the course of which many hopes were raised, no tidings were obtained of Mr. Powell, who was supposed to have been drowned.”
On Wednesday, January 24, 1883 the New York Times carried a story that the remains of the balloonhad been found in the mountains of Sierra del Phedroza, Spain. There was however no sign of the body of Walter Powell.