- MORESPORTS - Blimp crashes into Oakland restaurant

Wednesday, January 31
Blimp crashes into Oakland restaurant

SAN FRANCISCO -- A blimp emblazoned with the XFL logo came crashing down into an Oakland waterfront restaurant after its two-man crew was forced to evacuate.

The wayward blimp meandered for 20 minutes after the two men jumped to safety around 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, according to Oakland Airport spokeswoman Cyndy Johnson. The pilot sustained minor injuries.

XFL' promo blimp
A blimp advertising the new XFL and Spalding sits atop the roof of a waterfront restaurant.

The pilot attempted an emergency landing at the airport, but he and a student pilot -- the only two onboard -- were forced to jump from the gondola because they could not control the blimp, Johnson said. A landing crew was not able to tie it down.

The unattended blimp then floated five miles north over the Oakland Estuary, at one point reaching 1,600 feet, until its gondola caught on a sailboat mast in the Central Basin marina. It draped over the roof of the Oyster Reef restaurant -- next to where the boat was moored -- and a nearby power line.

The pilot was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was listed in stable condition, said Jim Devitt, associate hospital administrator. The student pilot followed the blimp on the ground and was treated and released by an ambulance at the marina. Their names have not been released.

No one on the ground was hurt.

The blimp, which bore advertising for Spalding and the XFL, sustained about $2.5 million in damage, Johnson said. The restaurant and sailboat are being inspected, but a spokeswoman for the Oakland fire department said damage was minimal.

Authorities from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating what went wrong.

"There could have been a number of reasons," Grant Murray, spokesman for blimp owner Airship USA, told reporters. "An airship moves with great mass and it's very difficult to control it."

The XFL football league, the creation of World Wrestling Federation head Vince McMahon, is set to start early next month.


Exclusive Page 2 investigation: Who crashed the XFL blimp?