ABERDEEN, Md. (WJZ) — For the first time, we’re hearing police and firefighters scramble as the military blimp wreaks havoc. It’s a situation some Maryland authorities warned about. And now, many want to know how this could have happened.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren with the growing questions.
We spoke to Representative Elijah Cummings, who wants answers about this entire program, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
There are also continuing concerns about why backup safety systems failed.
Emergency dispatch recordings WJZ obtained reveal the chaos as the military balloon drifted from Maryland into Pennsylvania.
“It’s going to hit these big transformer lines that run along the interstate here very shortly. It’s dragging some kind of big cable behind it.”
It became the nightmare some local officials long feared.
“We’ve got a situation going on. We’re starting to get reports of traffic lights out. We’ve got a situation with a large balloon coming down and taking wires,” a dispatcher said. “Cable that’s dragging. It’s ripping everything out of the ground.”
“All the wires tear off the house and went that way out the yard and flew down the street,” said Anita Musgrave, witness.
The blimp was certainly big enough to cause major damage–almost the size of an entire football field.
Dispatcher: “About how far off the ground is it?”
Caller: “About 500 feet.”
Dispatcher: “She said this balloon possibly is going down in a field across from her residence.”
WJZ wants to know—how did this happen—and so do lawmakers.
Representative Elijah Cummings sent a letter to the secretary of transportation, demanding accountability.
Cummings later told WJZ: “This accident endangered lives, disrupted flight paths, left thousands of people without electricity, and raises questions about the value and reliability of JLENS.”
JLENS is the name of the program that uses two balloons in the Baltimore area to monitor against terrorist missiles and other threats. That other balloon remains grounded.
Friday night, the military removed sensitive radar from what’s left of the crashed blimp. It will be brought to Aberdeen.
Crews will spend this weekend cleaning up the rest of the mess.