Parachuting Santa crashes in Auckland

20 November 1937

George Sellars (Hocken Library, E.A. Phillips Collection, P1968-001/7-197)

George Sellars narrowly escaped serious injury when he was able to swing his parachute away from the glass roof of the Winter Gardens during the Farmers’ Christmas parade in Auckland.

Organisers had planned for Sellars to land on the outer Auckland Domain disguised as Father Christmas and distribute toys to waiting children. The plane he parachuted from was flying just 300 m above the Domain – low enough for the spectators below to see him standing on the wing waiting to jump.

According to a report on the incident, Sellars was only a few seconds from smashing into the Gardens’ roof when he was able to alter the parachute’s trajectory. He fell heavily into a garden patch between two hothouses, almost hitting two gardeners.

As he watched Sellars head off course towards the Gardens, the manager of Farmers’ Trading Company, Robert Laidlaw, thought ‘I’m going to be the first man to kill Santa Claus’.

Sellars managed to limp to a shelter and adjust his beard before bravely returning to assist with the distribution of gifts.