Jamie Lovemark couldn’t believe what he was seeing during his first round of play Thursday at the U.S. Open.
“I was teeing off and I looked up and saw it was on fire and I felt sick to my stomach,” Lovemark said as he watched a small blimp deflate, lose altitude and catch fire in the sky at the 117th U.S. Open.
The blimp was advertising the PenFed Credit Union, sailing in the skies bordering the action at Erin Hills. At around 11:15 a.m., CDT, the blimp began to deflate a half-mile from the course.
“I had the shakes, it was a horrific scene,” Lovemark recalled. He gathered himself and went on to shoot a three-under par 69.
The pilot,, Trevor Thompson, was able to jump and parachute from the blimp as it was going down. He was air-lifted by first responders to the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Hospital. He suffered burns on 40 percent of his body despite wearing a fireproof flight suit.
The FAA and NTSB were on-site in the afternoon to investigate the crash. Speculation was that the blimp suffered a catastrophic failure of the outer layer of its skin.
This was the first incident of its kind at a U.S. Open Championship.