Blimp that originated in Maine goes down in Ohio

Lillian Bernhagen takes photos of a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in her backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.
Kantele Franko | AP
Lillian Bernhagen takes photos of a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in her backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.
Posted Aug. 15, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.
Crews take apart a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in a resident's backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.
Kantele Franko | AP
Crews take apart a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in a resident's backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.
Crews take apart a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in a resident's backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.
Kantele Franko | AP
Crews take apart a blimp that broke free of its moorings at an airport and landed in a resident's backyard on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011, in Worthington, Ohio.

WORTHINGTON, Ohio — An advertising blimp that had a turbulent send-off out of Maine wound up in a 94-year-old Ohio woman’s backyard Sunday after being torn from its tether in stormy weather.

“I looked out the window and I said, ‘Wow!’” said Lillian Bernhagen, who woke early Sunday to find the tattered remains of the blimp draped across her backyard. “It really is quite an occasion to have a blimp land in your yard.”

That same blimp, which bears an advertisement for Hangar 1 Vodka, was assembled in a hangar in Limestone, Maine, in May before it took off for a months-long tour down the Eastern Seaboard and across the Midwest with the intention of arriving at Hangar 1 Vodka’s headquarters in California late this fall. Its departure from Maine was slowed by clouds and rain, forcing it to spend days marooned at the Lincoln Regional Airport and then the Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

The delays caused headaches for the blimp’s crew but offered hundreds of Mainers along the way the chance to see the 128-foot airship up close.

The blimp broke free of its moorings at a Columbus airport during strong winds early Sunday, then drifted to the sky, headed eastward and landed in Bernhagen’s backyard in Worthington, less than two miles from Ohio State University’s Don Scott airfield. No one was aboard and no injuries were reported.

Storms had limited the options authorities had to find the blimp until it was spotted in Bernhagen’s yard. The Federal Aviation Administration tried to locate it using radar, while its owners tried to see it from the ground, said state police spokesman Lt. Rudy Zupanc.

Bernhagen, who said the incident forced her to miss her church service, said the blimp toppled a small tree and slightly bent a corner awning along her roof but didn’t do any major damage to her home. The blimp, which is owned by a Florida-based firm called The Lightship Group, was removed from Bernhagen’s yard Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t expect to see one on the ground,” she said. “I’ve only ever seen one in the air.”

The blimp won’t make its next planned stop in Detroit on Thursday, according to Toby Page, the group’s marketing director.

“TLG will investigate what happened, but at this time there’s nothing to indicate that it was anything more than a freak thunderstorm,” Page said, noting he had no concerns about how the blimp was tethered at the airport.

Page said Monday it was too early to tell whether the blimp is salvageable.

“We’re just very thankful that there are no injuries,” he said.

Asked whether his group might originate more blimp flights out of Maine, Page said it’s possible given that the hangar in Loring is unique because of its extremely large size.

“It’s not easy to find available hangar space for these blimps,” he said.

As for Bernhagen, she joked that she might try a drink of Hangar 1 Vodka after such a ruckus.

Bangor Daily News staff writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

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