Orange County News

Hangar collapse damages $35M zeppelin in Tustin

Monday, October 07, 2013

Part of the roof of a hangar collapsed at a former military base in Tustin, damaging a $35-million dirigible and causing it to leak helium.

There's a gaping hole in the roof of the former Marine Corps air base hangar, inside of which sits a damaged zeppelin. Monday morning, a portion of structure built during World War II collapsed without warning.

"So there were occupants inside when the partial roof collapsed. Those folks were evacuated without incident or injury," said Orange County Fire Authority Chief Kelly Zimmerman.

But debris did puncture the $35-million aircraft, releasing helium into the air. Helium gas is not flammable but it can suffocate.

"Our concern was that in an enclosed environment anyone entering that without a breathing apparatus would be rendered unconscious in a short period of time," said Zimmerman.

Worldwide Aeros, which leases the hangar from the Navy, told Eyewitness News damage to the airship is repairable.

A company spokesperson says the zeppelin is under development to move large cargo for commercial and military uses.

According to Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer employees reported hearing creaking in the area a week prior to Monday's collapse.

"Apparently there had been some debris, maybe some pieces of wood they describe that had fallen from the ceiling, and they apparently reported that to the federal government," said Spitzer.

Spitzer says the county is set to buy the property from the federal government to develop a regional park on the site.

"There is real legal and liability issues about whether the county of Orange as part of the military conveyance process could afford to take this structure in light of the fact that we have a big hole inside the structure," said Spitzer.

The hangar has been red-tagged. A building inspector will examine the damages.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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