A wild story from the first day of the 117th U.S. Open unfolded Thursday morning at Erin Hills. Players and spectators witnessed a blimp crash before their very eyes. The news spread quickly on social media and details soon began to emerge.
The pilot of a commercial blimp that plunged out of the sky and crashed and burst into flames late Thursday morning about a mile from the U.S. Open at Erin Hills was “alert and conscious” as he was taken into an emergency helicopter and transported to the hospital, according to a law enforcement officer on the scene.
Paramedics were seen tending to the injured pilot before they wheeled the man into a waiting helicopter marked “Flight For Life.” Authorities told reporters who arrived at the crash site that no one else was on board but the pilot. Patrick Walsh, CEO of AirSign, an advertising firm, identified the pilot to ESPN as Trevor Thompson. Walsh said the crash was due to “a catastrophic failure” of the skin near the top of the ship that caused led to a depressurizing and loss of shape, and it then caught fire in the air.
— AirSign (@AirSign) June 15, 2017
Walsh called Thompson one of the most sought pilots of this type of airship in the United States, and credited crew chief Matt Schmidt with saving his life. Schmidt told ESPN.com that he was the first to arrive at the crash scene, and that he pulled Thompson away from the burning wreckage just before the blimp’s propane tanks exploded.
“I heard him calling out for help when I got there,” Schmidt told ESPN. “He was able to get out of the gondola and he was probably five to ten feet away from (the blimp) trying to call 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.”
Schmidt said that Thompson suffered burns on his back and on the back of his neck and head. Schmidt said he was told by paramedics on the scene that the injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.
Golfer Jamie Lovemark was playing the front nine when he looked up and saw the blimp on fire. “I felt sick to my stomach,” Lovemark said. “I had the shakes. I felt terrible for the people inside. It was a horrible sight.”
This was one of the first videos posted of the incident:
— madison seigworth (@msiggyy) June 15, 2017
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