A blimp flying over the U.S. Open golf tournament in Erin Hills, Wisconsin, crashed and burned in a nearby field on June 15 (video below).
AirSign, an aerial advertising firm, told NBC News that the pilot, Trevor Thompson, escaped the crash, and no one else was onboard the blimp.
The AirSign blimp was not linked to the United States Golf Association (USGA), but was advertising a local credit union when disaster struck.
Golf pro Charley Hoffman described the bizarre accident to Golf.com:
I saw it happen. I was sitting on 7 tee and my caddie goes, "Look at that thing just blew up." And it was going down through the air. I didn't see it explode, but it definitely was just happened when he tapped me on the shoulder. So I saw it fluttering down through the sky.
The USGA noted what happened next:
First responders were quick to arrive at the scene and the pilot is currently being treated for unknown injuries. No other people were involved in the incident and local law enforcement is currently investigating. Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot at this time.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office said the pilot was badly injured, reports Fox News Sports:
The pilot, the only occupant of the aircraft, sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash and was medically transported via Flight for Life with serious burns and injuries. The initial investigation reveals the blimp may have experienced mechanical problems prior to the crash.
The Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Hospital said that Thompson is in serious condition at their Wauwatosa facility, reports NBC News.
According to WTMJ, Thompson suffered burns on about 40 percent of his body.
Patrick Walsh, the president of AirSign, told the news station: "[Thompson] wore a fireproof flight suit, and that probably protected him quite a bit as well."
Walsh said the blimp likely crashed because its envelope (skin) failed after being subjected to hot air from propane burners.
"There's a lot of details we have to dig out to see why this happened and what caused it, but we are grateful the pilot is alive and getting care," Walsh added.
According to authorities, the blimp had been flying for "several hours" when it crashed while flying at the correct altitude.
Thompson was reportedly part of an "off-airport landing" in Long Island in November 2015 after an airship lost power. In another incident, Thompson's airship deflated, and his basket was dragged on the ground by rough winds in March 2016 near Philadelphia.