Shocking disasters of the 20th century: From Hindenburg to Le Mans, historic Pathe footage reveals events which shook the world
With a self-designed parachute strapped to his back, the visibly nervous inventor teeters on a ledge at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Moments later, the flickering black and white footage shows Franz Reichelt launching himself from the tower to test his creation – and plummeting to his death.
The eerie silent clip, captured in Paris in 1912, is just one example of a host of notorious tragedies to unfold as Pathe News cameras were rolling in decades past.
Eerie: Pathe News was invited to witness Austrian inventor Franz Reichelt test his parachute design by jumping from the Eiffel Tower in 1912
Tragedy: Pathe News cameras captured the inventor falling to his death when his parachute design failed
The iconic British firm’s archive – compiled as its cameramen toured the globe documenting world news from 1910 to 1970 – features not just extraordinary moments of triumph, but also scenes of disaster.
Members of the crowd invited to witness the inventor’s ill-fated test jump rushed to his aid, but he was pronounced dead. The newsreel also captures startling scenes as onlookers measured the hole in the ground created by the impact of Reichelt’s body.
VIDEO: Pathe cameras captured Franz Reichelt’s ill-fated test jump in 1912
Pathe cameras were also there to capture the dramatic scenes that unfolded in New Jersey, U.S., in 1937, when Nazi airship the Hindenburg went up in flames.
Witnesses’ screams can be heard on the footage as the passenger airship is engulfed by fire during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air station.
The disaster claimed the lives of 35 passengers and one person on the ground, and shattered public confidence in airships as a means of travel.
VIDEO: Dramatic scenes as the Hindenburg airship goes up in flames in 1937
During WWII, a Pathe News cameraman was on board the ship adjacent to the HMS Barham when disaster befell the Naval battleship in the Mediterranean in November 1941.
He captured the horrifying scenes as the ship was hit by a salvo of torpedoes from a German submarine.
The onslaught saw the HMS Barham begin sinking rapidly before exploding.
The archive also includes footage of the 1955 Le Mans diaster, the most catastrophic accident in the history of motor sport.
Cameras documenting the famous annual race captured the chaos when a crash sent huge chunks of debris hurtling into the crowd.
The disaster claimed the lives of 83 spectators and driver Pierre Levegh.
A tragic clip filmed in 1963 shows ‘Bird Man’ Gerard Masselin’s disastrous parachute jump. Mr Masselin is seen falling to certain death when his parachute fails to open.
The footage shows bystanders trying in vain to resuscitate the man as he lies on the ground.
The death of legendary racing driver Frank Lockhart at Daytona Beach, Florida, was also documented by Pathe News.
The newsreel shows Lockhart speeding along the sand before spinning out of control when he cut a tyre.
Lockhart was thrown from the car and killed as it tumbled violently across the sand.
VIDEO: Legendary racing driver Frank Lockhart dies in Daytona Beach crash
Cameras documenting pleasant scenes as families enjoyed the Farnborough Air Show in 1952 were soon trained on unfolding tragedy when a plane crashed into the crowd.
The pilot and a passenger died that day along with 29 spectators on the ground at the airfield in Hampshire.
Other moments of tragedy unearthed from the Pathe archive include Suffragette Emily Davison dying for her cause at the Epsom Derby in 1913, the death of a pilot left trapped in the cockpit of his aircraft as it sinks off the HMS Victorious in 1958, and Donald Campbell’s fatal attempt to set a new record for speed on water in Lancashire in 1967.