Fabric tears led to U.S. Open blimp fire, crash near Erin Hills

June 27, 2017

ERIN, Wis. — Officials say tears in the fabric envelope of a hot-air blimp caused it to crash near the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday says the airship was returning to the Erin airport June 15 because the winds were too strong. The pilot was approaching the airstrip at an altitude of about 200 feet when he encountered a thermal updraft, which sent the airship up to 500 feet.

The pilot tried to release hot air to descend when he heard one fabric panel tear, and then another. The pilot shut off the propane burners, but part of the envelope collapsed around the burners and caught fire. The airship descended nose down and crashed. Pilot Trevor Thompson was seriously injured.