No blimp over our games
No blimp over our games
Goodyear blimp crash-lands in Coral Springs during thunderstorm
By Jon Burstein, Akilah Johnson, Kevin Smith & Brian Haas
Posted June 17 2005
The Goodyear blimp Stars & Stripes crashed Thursday night during a spectacular summer lightning storm, slamming into a Coral Springs storage building after struggling to stay afloat as fierce rain whipped around it.
The blimp's two pilots walked away from the crash unharmed, with no injuries reported on the ground and minimal structural damage to Coral Springs Mini Storage, 12001 NW 35th St., authorities said. The downed blimp hit a concrete utility pole during its descent, causing about 1,400 homes near Sample Road and Coral Ridge Drive to lose electricity.
Thousands of west Broward County residents heard or saw the ill-fated flight of the Stars & Stripes, a fixture at major Florida sporting events, as the pilots fought to keep it airborne. Flabbergasted witnesses said they watched as the blimp labored to gain altitude, flying just a few hundred feet above their homes.
"It looked like the wind had got it and he was trying to get it to climb – and it wasn't climbing," said Fred Turner III, who saw the blimp from his house. "It looked like the nose was pointing up at a 50-degree angle."
As of late Thursday night, authorities had released no information on what caused the blimp to have problems or whether the pilots decided they had to bring it down at 6:52 p.m. The pilots' identities had not been released.
The pilots had to stay aboard the blimp briefly after it crashed as rescue crews and Florida Power & Light workers shut off nearby power lines, said Coral Springs Fire-Rescue spokesman Mike Moser. He said the way the blimp came down "might have been intentional."
"They may have had the choice of fighting it [the weather] and landing on homes or putting it down where it's OK," Moser said. He said the blimp could have easily ended up on Sample Road or the Sawgrass Expressway.
"In my 28 years in South Florida, I've never seen anything like this," Moser said. He said he saw the blimp in the air about 30 minutes before it came down, and it appeared to be at a normal altitude.
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were called to the scene. Police had to cordon off the area in every direction to keep onlookers away. The blimp's nose, still full of gases, could be seen poking over the top of the one-story storage building.
The blimp is based at the Pompano Beach Air Park. The 192-foot-long blimp is 50 feet wide and 59.5 feet tall. It is one of three blimps owned by Goodyear.
Goodyear company spokesman Jerry Jenkins said in a brief statement Thursday: "We're grateful there were no injuries onboard or on the ground. Following an investigation, more information will be released."
Blimp crashes are rare, with only 23 reported since 1962, according to the National Transportation Safety Board crash database. The database shows Goodyear blimps have crashed on four occasions, the most recent in California in 2003 when a blimp slammed into a fence and lumber pile while trying to land.
Of the 1,400 homes that lost power because of the crash, 600 had their electricity quickly restored by rerouting the power, said Kathy Scott, spokeswoman for Florida Power & Light. She cautioned that the others might not be as fortunate.
"There may be some people who have an extended outage," Scott said, though she didn't have a timeline for repairs. "The pole is down."
Even hours after the blimp crash, witnesses were still amazed at what they saw.
Line cook Todd Ragin was in the kitchen of the Red Lobster at 2000 University Drive when he heard a boom he knew wasn't just thunder. He and his restaurant's general manager rushed outside and saw the descending blimp.
"I said, `Look the blimp is falling!' It was coming down real fast," Ragin said. "It was scary. I called 911 and told them a blimp was falling out of the sky and told them it was just behind the Red Lobster. I really thought there was going to be an explosion."