Blimp crashes near US Open in Wisconsin, pilot injured

PHOTO: A blimp crashes during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, June 15, 2017, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. PlayCharlie Riedel/AP Photo
WATCH Fiery blimp crash near US open golf tournament

A blimp crashed this morning in a field about a half mile from the U.S. Open at the Erin Hills golf course in Wisconsin, injuring the pilot, the U.S. Golf Association said, citing local authorities.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office described the pilot's injuries and burns as serious. A spokesperson for AirSign, an aerial advertising firm based in Florida, said its blimp was involved in the incident, and told ABC News the pilot suffered nonlife-threatening burns and will be "OK."

The pilot did not jump or parachute from the blimp, said Patrick Walsh, CEO of AirSign. The pilot stayed on the blimp until it crashed and was pulled away from the wreckage by the crew chief before the propane tanks exploded, Walsh said.

The pilot was the only person on board, the sheriff’s office said, and no one else was involved, the U.S. Golf Association said.

PHOTO: A blimp floats over the crowd during the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 15, 2017 in Hartford, Wis.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
A blimp floats over the crowd during the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 15, 2017 in Hartford, Wis.

The sheriff’s office said one of its deputies reported seeing the blimp on fire, or smoking, and rapidly descending at 11:15 a.m. local time. The sheriff's office described the U.S. Open as about a mile west of the crash site.

PHOTO: A blimp floats over the crowd during the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 15, 2017 in Hartford, Wis.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
A blimp floats over the crowd during the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 15, 2017 in Hartford, Wis.

A spokesperson for AirSign said the cause of the incident is unclear but said it happened shortly after the blimp refueled.

The blimp was advertising the PenFed Credit Union, the company's vice president, Robin Pence, confirmed in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot at this time," Pence said.

The sheriff's office said, "The initial investigation reveals the blimp may have experienced mechanical problems prior to the crash."

"The advertising blimp had been airborne for several hours prior to the incident and the sheriff’s office had been in contact with FAA representatives earlier in the day and determined the aircraft was lawfully operating at the proper altitude," the sheriff's office said.

PHOTO: The location where a blimp crashed during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, June 15, 2017, near Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. WISN
The location where a blimp crashed during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, June 15, 2017, near Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

The airship was not affiliated with the U.S. Golf Association or the U.S. Open Championship broadcast, the U.S. Golf Association added.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot at this time," the U.S. Golf Association said.

Earlier AirSign tweeted this view today from the blimp: