Thursday 22 February 2018

Pilot's lucky escape as blimp goes down in flames

A blimp used by TV appears to crash. Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
A blimp used by TV appears to crash. Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Brian Keogh

Several favourites went down in flames at the US Open and there was also drama in the skies as a commercial blimp caught fire and crash-landed in a field near Erin Hills.

The blimp, advertising the PenFed Credit Union, crashed in an open field approximately half a mile from the course at around 11.15am.

The pilot was pulled away from the burning wreckage just before the blimp's propane tanks exploded. He was then airlifted to hospital, where he was treated for burns.

Crew chief Matt Schmidt, who was the first to arrive at the crash scene, told"I heard him calling out for help when I got there. He was able to get out of the gondola and he was probably five to 10 feet away (from the blimp) trying to crawl away.

"I asked him if he could move and he said he couldn't get up and walk. I pulled him as far away as I could and as fast as I could.

"I got 50 feet away before the first tank exploded, and then I pulled him about another 60 feet away before the second one exploded."

Spectators posted photos and videos online which appeared to show the blimp falling from the sky and crashing in woodland near the course.

American Jamie Lovemark, who saw the crash while compiling an opening 69, said: "I was teeing off on maybe number five and I looked up and saw it on fire and I felt sick to my stomach. I had the shakes.

"I didn't know what was going on. It was a horrible sight. I don't know what happened. It was scary."

The blimp was operated by AirSign, an aerial advertising firm with operations across the United States.

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