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Tragic story of Captain Lorraine

One of the more unusual stories from the history of Lancaster Park is the tragic story of David Mahoney (Captain Lorraine), the famous parachuting balloonist from Auckland who lost his life in 1899 following an exhibition at Lancaster Park. It was the days when ballooning was a spectator sport; the days when ballooning involved no safety valve to release air from the balloon; the days when balloons did not have baskets; the days when the brave balloonist descended back to ground from a parachute that he held onto – sometimes performing tricks on a trapeze as part of the descent. On this day Captain Lorraine struck a series of misfortunes. A wind gust took him from Lancaster Park toward to Port Hills, whilst his parachute fell to the ground. He attempted to lower the balloon by ‘tipping it’ to release air but was at the mercy of the Canterbury winds. Some time later a farmer spotted his balloon in the water near Port Levy, with Captain Lorraine sitting atop. Unfortunately, by the time rescue boats reached the area no sign of the balloon or the brave balloonist could be found, nor was ever found. This story is brilliantly retold in Gordon Slatter’s book about Lancaster Park, and mentioned also in Joseph Romanos and Don Neely’s writings.