Thursday, 4:30 PM
Pilot walks away from blimp crash after getting stuck in trees
By Brenda J. Buote, Globe Staff, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
Witnesses watched as the Hood blimp bobbed up and down in the air and looped in circles this afternoon before it crashed into a grove of trees a few miles from its base at Beverly Municipal Airport.
The 90-foot-long, helium-filled balloon became wedged 30-feet above the ground in Manchester-by-the-Sea, according to police and witnesses. The pilot, who was not injured, was stuck in the dangling and deflated airship for more than two hours until his rescue at about 2:45 p.m.
The pilot experienced "rudder problems" about 15 minutes after his 12:15 p.m. takeoff and tried to land on Singing Beach but got caught in the trees, according to Robert Mezzetti, the airport manager.
State Police Lieutenant Dermot Quinn identified the pilot as Leigh W. Bradbury, 57.
Bradbury was talking to emergency workers while he was still stuck 30-feet above the ground, according to Robert Haggstrom, who lives nearby in Beverly Farms and walked through the woods to investigate after the crash.
"It's a small blimp, but it looks big when it's above you," said Haggstrom. "I'm pretty used to seeing it at the airport, but Iíve never seen it come down."
Before the pilot's rescue, equipment from a tree trimming service and a white truck labeled Hood Airship Operations rushed to the scene, which had been blocked off by emergency officials.
Representatives from the company that owns the blimp and H.P. Hood, a Chelsea-based dairy maker, described the incident as a "soft" and "controlled landing."
The blimp is owned by The Lightship Group, an Orlando, Fla.-based company that rents the aircraft as advertising space. Mickey Wittman, the company's director of client services, said the pilot was aboard the A-60 airship alone.
Lynne Bohan, a spokeswoman for Hood, said that the pilot was flying to advertise for the company and was not headed to a baseball game or other event frequented by the aircraft.
The company has been leasing a blimp from Lightship Group for eight years, Bohan said.
The Lightship Group has a fleet of 18 blimps across the country.