“Winds here were just too strong:” Blimp crashes near US Open; pilot suffers serious burns

ERIN -- Authorities from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provided more details on the blimp flying close to the U.S. Open that crashed into a farm field and exploded Thursday, June 15th. The pilot suffered some serious burns but we're told he should recover.

We've seen images of the crash and it's hard to believe someone could survive. FOX6 News has learned the pilot was wearing a flame retardant suit and was able to crawl out on impact.

Flight for Life called out to area near Erin Hills after blimp went down

"He heard a sound similar to some of the panels ripping on the balloon," said Air Safety Investigator, Pamela Sullivan.

A senior air safety investigator for the NTSB shared more details in a news conference Thursday evening.

"He was coming back to land because the winds here were just too strong," said Sullivan.

Flight for Life called out to area near Erin Hills after blimp went down

Despite his injuries, the pilot who AirSign identified as Trevor Thompson, was able to speak with investigators after the crash. He told authorities this was his second flight of the day. He went up about 1,000 feet before noticing wind gusts were not favorable then the airship pitched nose down. Thompson says he shut off fuel to the burners.

"The envelope started collapsing and the burners were still burning the residual fuel and the envelope caught fire," said Sullivan.

Cell phone video from witnesses caught the aircraft falling from the sky, and the aftermath of the crash. The CEO of AirSign tells FOX6 nothing like this has ever happened in the company's history and it happened to one of their more experienced pilots.

Flight for Life called out to area near Erin Hills after blimp went down

"Thankfully he's alive and it doesn't seem like there is any critical or life-threatening injuries," said Sullivan.

Flight for Life called out to area near Erin Hills after blimp went down

NTSB says this was a foreign registered thermal aircraft and the pilot originally took off from a nearby airstrip. He is most likely alive to tell the tale of what happened because of the fireproof suit he was wearing.

"He did have a Nomex suit on and Nomex gloves. He did have some burns but we are assuming that was a huge factor in protecting him," said Sullivan.

NTSB says a crash investigation of this magnitude could take anywhere from six months to a year to complete. They are still determining the original manufacturer of the aircraft.

Flight for Life called out to area near Erin Hills after blimp went down