Pilot of blimp which crashed near US Open made two previous emergency landings

The pilot of the blimp which crashed and burst into flames near the site of the US Open at Erin Hills had been involved in two previous emergency landings.

Trevor Thompson is being treated in hospital in Wisconsin after suffering burns and other injuries in the crash on Thursday morning.

An investigation has been launched into the crash and is expected to last several weeks, according to officials from the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB).

In November 2015, Thompson was forced to make an emergency landing on a baseball field at a school in Long Island as he attempted to fly an advertising blimp to a Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan.

And in March 2016 he was forced to land in a construction site just off Interstate 95 in Philadelphia when his engine failed.

Pamela Sullivan, senior air safety investigator for the NTSB, told a press conference on Thursday evening that Thompson was attempting to return to an airstrip near Erin Hills when he encountered an updraft.

"He vented part of the air so that he could descend," Sullivan said.

"When he was doing that he heard a sound similar to some of the panels ripping. A couple seconds later, he said he heard another rip sound. The air ship pitched nose down.

"He turned off the manifold, the fuel to the burners. However, the envelope started to collapse and the burners were still burning residual fuel and the envelope caught fire and he impacted the ground.

"It was a foreign-registered GEFA-Flug, which is a thermal aircraft. The pilot was interviewed by detectives from the Sheriff's Office."

Fox Sports broadcast footage of an explosion from the downed blimp, which was operated by AirSign, an aerial advertising firm with operations across the United States.

A spokesman for AirSign told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The pilot is okay but suffered some burns. He stayed with the blimp until it went down."

The company later tweeted: "Thanks to everyone for your concerns, the blimp pilot is being taken to the hospital but is expected to be ok. No details on cause of crash."

Patrick Walsh, the chief executive of AirSign, credited crew chief Matt Schmidt with saving Thompson's life.

Schmidt told ESPN.com that he was the first to arrive at the crash scene, adding: "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."


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