The parachutist, the helicopter and the Brownhills daredevil

Last year, I asked readers to show support for the Express & Star in their bid to gain funding to digitise and open to the public their photo archive – a huge treasury of newspaper images that current exist in print form only.

Chris Leggett, who’s worked hard on the bid, continues to tweet and post to Facebook exactly the kind of fascinating and evocative images that would become available to us all and make the whole project worthwhile.

This week, Chris released an image that shocked many people.


A parachutist comes to earth with an unpleasant bump, as did a helicopter attempting to winch him free, during an early 70s Aldridge Show. We’d like to know more about this: what do you remember? Image courtesy of the Express & Star photo archive.

Chris had this to say about this remarkable photo:

Possibly the best photo we’ve published yet. Award nominated picture from July 7th 1973 – Bulmers skydiver Kenneth Cornwell caught by his parachute on overhead cables at Aldridge summer show. A helicopter tried to winch him free. The rope snapped, sending the skydiver to ground missing the safety net pictured. The helicopter crashed, bursting into flames. Crew escaped. Express & Star photographer Geoff Wright highly commended in national competition.

There must be someone out there who recalls this remarkable and horrifying incident. Chris, who has connections in Aldridge, would particularly like to know where it happened; we both agree that in the fields near Mill Green, Little Aston seems likely.

The story even made The Kentucky Daily News, of July 9th, 1973, which gives more detail:

Untitled 7

Found via Google, this gives more information. Click to see the article on Google.

Please, if you have any recollections or memories of this shocking accident, please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

On a lighter note, Chris also turned up this image, also causing a bit of a stir:


Sorry, this is the largest version I have. The image is described as ‘Brownhills stunt man Malcolm Wright enters Stowe Pool,Lichfield 1977 in regatta’ – photo courtesy of the Express & Star archive.

This is ‘Brownhills Stuntman’ Malcolm Wright riding a bike off a ramp into Stowe Pool, in Lichfield, in 1977 as part of an event referred to as a ‘Regatta’. He was billed as ‘Brownhills answer to Evil Knievel’.

You know what I’m going to ask: who is this chap, what happened to him and is he still around? More to the point, who’s the diver? That’s a great photograph. Please, please, please – anything you know about this chap, please comment or mail me. He looks like fun.

If you would like to support the Express & Star photo bid, please send a letter of support to: Chris Leggett, Brand and communications manager, Express & Star, 51-53 Queen Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1ES. Or email:

You could always Like the Express & Star photo bid on Facebook while you’re about it.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, cycling, Environment, Events, Express & Star, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Just plain daft, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The parachutist, the helicopter and the Brownhills daredevil

  1. paul says:

    Hi I remember this incident with the parachute. although I was too young to remember the specifics. However it happenned on the fields on the left hand side at the bottom of the Erdington road in Aldridge by the Electricity pylons.

  2. Karen says:

    Hi, I think the brownhills stuntman is from Clayhanger. Malcolm Wright lived (still does I believe!) in Bridge St and his kids were about the same age as my brothers so they would be late 40’s now. Malcolm about 70 maybe? Malcolm was renowned for his madcap tricks so I reckon it’s the same man. Brian Stringer might be able to verify it as he lived in Bridge Street for a number of years and would have known Malcolm. Last I heard he still lived in the same house.

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  4. Brian Wright says:

    I recall the parachutist getting caught on the high voltage cables. It was at the Town School, Sutton Coldfield ‘ s Summer Fair. The event was held on the Old Veteran’s Rugby Club. The parachutist broke his pelvis, etc., but survived, as did the two pilots.

  5. rupert says:

    Try john froggett if i remember right he was the commodore of lichfield sailing club at the time …you will find him at chase water sailing club ..i think the divers name was bill and he was a sailing club member

  6. Caroline says:

    I vividly remember the parachute incident. At the time we lived on a farm at the bottom of Daniels Lane. Paul (posting above) is correct this incident happened very close to where we lived. We watched the whole thing unfold. The parachutist hung suspended from the cables for ages, then a helicopter appeared, they lowered a cable to lift the parachutist upwards so that he cleared the cables. The helicopter blades caught the cables and the copter tipped, dropping the parachutist who fell to the ground. We understood that amazingly he survived. The Old Veseyans ground was on Little Hardwick Road, so this would be right for the location

  7. Jo says:

    My partner lived in the house towards the end of the Erdington Road in Lime Tree House,opposite the garden centre and next to the pylon that the helicopter crashed near to. They bought the house years after the incident and several years after unearthed a helicopter wheel in their back garden. They asked about and were told about the accident. It’s a pity they didn’t keep the wheel – it would have been quite an interesting artefact.

    • Andy Tipping says:

      i hate to contradict – but the helicopter in question didn’t have wheels, they were skids
      also where it went down was nowhere near any houses – the bungalow directly next to valley nurseries was owned by my aunt and uncle – who we were visiting on the day of the accident – the chopper came down intact so any bits could only have been looted later – which i doubt.
      my dad was one of the people holding the “blanket” that the poor guy missed.

      • Jo says:

        That’s a pity Andy – he loves to tell that story, in all fairness they’d originally thought the wheels were from farming equipment but others had mentioned the helicopter incident. Do you know of a pub opposite the garden centre – they also unearthed lots of bottles on the land around the house and had been told it was previously a pub? I can’t find any info on it though.

  8. Jen Cornwell says:

    The Parachutist is my brother ken, who was a PJI (parachute jump Instructor in the RAF. He did in deed break his pelvis and wrists. He emigrated to Australia in 1974 as the climate would be more kindly to his injuries. He become a teacher in Physical Education. Today he would he would still jump out of a herc given half the chance!

  9. Fil says:

    He was in fields belonging to Bourne Vale Riding School. I was actually teaching a class of kids when the incident began. Once the scattered ponies and kids were safely back at the yard many of us walked up to watch the “rescue.” I was telling my niece and nephew the story about 24 years ago and my sister called me a liar to my face…

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