Thursday, September 20, 2007

Zeppelin NT prototype damaged - while moored [5th update]

Just 2 days after the 10th birthday of the Zeppelin NT Prototypes first flight we have to report about an accident that happened today in Botswana, Africa to that very same ship. Please read the Press Release (alternate link) just issued by Zeppelin for further Information:
Unexpected weather anomaly leads to damage of moored Zeppelin NT prototype in Botswana

One crew member injured

Friedrichshafen, September 20th 2007 – An airship is currently deployed on a two year contract to De Beers Exploration in Botswana. Following an accident that occurred while the airship was moored to the ground (not in flight) one South African crew member was injured. He has been examined and treated in hospital and his injuries are not reported to be life threatening. He is staying in hospital overnight for observation.

The accident occurred at approximately 2.10pm, local Botswana time. It is believed that the accident occurred as a result of an unusual whirl wind phenomenon causing
the airship, which was moored on the mooring mast, to suffer considerable damage. Zeppelin will give its full cooperation to the civil aviation authorities and a company technical expert will be dispatched to attend to the accident.

Our thoughts are with the injured crew member and his family. As soon as we know more about what happened and how serious things are we will update this post.

[Update 1]
We found a picture that was taken by Stefan Kuna, who is part of the Team in Botswana, and published by the BCC showing the Zeppelin NT on it's mobile mooring mast. (This picture was taken a while back and does not reflect the weather conditions, at the time of the incident)

Bellgeospace who are providing the technology for De Beers diamond exploration also has a nice page about their involvement with the Mission in Africa. There is also an article from Australia's Paydirt magazine , you can either read the original Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 or read all three pages together compiled by us: A new age of diamond exploration

Modern Airships.info as a page with pictures and a small article talking about the Zeppelin when it was shipped to Africa in August 2005.

Both the Bellgeospace and the Modern Airships.info site link to a Mineweb article that is not available anymore on the web. But we found it in the archive: De Beers gets the blimp in

Reuters reports in their coverage of the current event the following: De Beers diamond air ship crashes in Botswana - report. Of course this report was issued before the press release. We know now that the Zeppelin did not crash while in flight, it got damaged while moored to the mast by strong winds.

[Update 2] Zeppelin has now put the press release on their website to you can download it here.

[Update 3] Reports come in from Reuters and Miningmx quoting De Beers that:
The South African ground crew member on board was injured and received medical attention for bruises and cuts and will remain in hospital over night for observation.
This is really good news, that the crewman is doing ok. As soon as we know more we will update this post again.

[Update 4] De Beers has now issued a pressrelease which is available via Engineering News please read on for the full text or download it here:
Airship damaged on the ground by a severe wind – De Beers diamond exploration programme in Botswana will continue.

A Zeppelin NT airship, operated by the Zeppelin Company on contract to De Beers Exploration in Botswana, had an accident on Thursday while tethered to its ground mooring. The accident happened at the exploration base set up in the vicinity of the Jwaneng Mine. The Zeppelin was not flying at the time of the accident. The South African ground crew member on board was injured and received medical attention for bruises and cuts and will remain in hospital over night for observation. His family have been informed about his condition and he has been visited by company management who will continue to provide full assistance.

The De Beers head of exploration, Charles Skinner commented; “Our first priority was the injured crew member who has been successfully evacuated and has already received medical attention in a hospital. We are deeply relieved that he is expected to make a speedy and full recovery.”

The airship was not operating at the time, but was docked with the crew member on board as is the standard practise for this airship. The airship became detached from the masttruck after an unusual and sudden wind occurrence and has been damaged. The extent of the damage is being assessed. The Botswana Civil Aviation authorities were immediately informed of the incident and will visit the site tomorrow. The Zeppelin airship is a highly specialized craft and the operator, Zeppelin, is sending a specialist from Germany to assist with the investigation at the site.

The impact on the De Beers exploration programme in Botswana is that the Zeppelin component of the aerial and land based work programme is suspended. The company commented that while this will, in the short-term, impact on it, De Beers has other
technologies which will enable the company to continue with the much larger and longer term exploration programme. De Beers and the Zeppelin Company will consider the alternatives available following a detailed review of the incident. De Beers regrets the loss incurred by our partners, the Zeppelin Company.

The management of De Beers Exploration in Botswana are at the exploration camp site and the airship, which is on the ground, poses no danger to the local community or to the environment. The company remains committed to its staff and contractors involved in this project and confirmed that the airship is fully insured. End

[Update 5] We just recieved this Pressrelease from Zeppelin, download it here:
South African crew member suffered minor injury Airship expert on the way to Botswana

Friedrichshafen, September 21st 2007 – The South African crew member only suffered minor injuries during yesterday’s airship incident. Last night the man was under medical observation in a local hospital.

The first technical expertise indicates that a whirl wind captured the airship which
than due to the wind phenomenon hit ground sideways. The airship was moored
during the occurrence. A first evaluation shows considerable damage of the structure. The scene of the incident has been secured. It is unlikely that the prototype will be reparable.

At the time of the occurrence the airship was not operated. One crew member was on board the moored airship, which is required standard procedure. The injured South African crew member was immediately medically treated and kept in a hospital for medical observation over night. „We are relieved that only property damage occurred and that the crew member only suffered minor injuries“, says Thomas Brandt, CEO of ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & Co. KG.

A ZLT executive as well as an airship expert are on their way to Botswana to get a general overview over the damage. All authorities concerned with the incident were being informed.
It's good to hear that the crew member suffered only minor injuries, but very sad that the prototype might be so severely damaged that it won't be repairable.

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