Local news

More to great blimp caper than mere hot air

I knew Spokane’s crime rate was rising but this is stratospheric.

The other day thieves made off with a 20-foot floating blimp.

Be on the lookout: The blimp is white with red fins and has the words “Piano Sale” imprinted in red on the sides. It was last seen hovering over a section of the Gonzaga University campus on March 19. Anyone who spots it should immediately shoot it down or contact me at the information below.

Bereaved blimp owner Kevin Rindlisbacher filed the requisite theft report but hasn’t noticed much police interest on his case. Brazen blimp bandits are apparently not a high priority for Spokane’s finest.

A pity.

This may well be the first blimp-napping in city history. Solving such a landmark caper could pull a flatfoot off donut patrol and put him on the fast track to a relaxing desk job.

Rindlisbacher, out of legitimate options, asked me to help get his $2,600 blimp back.

Blimp stealers, he mused. “We knew this was right up your alley.”

Here’s where I would normally insert a comical self- deprecating remark about my close kinship with hot air. I must refrain, however. The missing blimp is full of helium – a gas that is not only cool but if inhaled makes you sound like a munchkin.

Let’s cut to the chase. Yes, my greedy readers, there is a reward.

Rindlisbacher will give away a shiny new white console piano for return of the blimp or the heads of the fiends responsible. Sorry. Make that information on the fiends responsible.

Rindlisbacher, 43, is the new owner of Davis & Hosch Music, 124 E. Sinto.

The music store supplies pianos to GU during the school year at no charge. The manufacturer depreciates the instruments so they can then be sold to the public at a discount.

This year’s sale was held at the university’s music annex at Boone and Van Gorp Place. To entice customers Rindlisbacher gassed up his blimp and led it over to the building, a short hike from Davis & Hosch.

Rindlisbacher owns three other piano stores in Salt Lake. He bought the blimp-vertising tool several years ago.

“Where does a guy go blimp shopping?” I asked.

“The Internet,” Rindlisbacher answered.

Is this a great country, or what?

Rindlisbacher said the GU sale ended on the fated Sunday evening. He reeled in the 200 feet of cable that kept the blimp hovering over the music building and secured the blimp to a bike rack with a cable lock.

He entered the music building about 10:30 p.m. A half-hour later he came outside to find himself blimpless.

Four nylon ropes that tied the blimp to a metal O-ring had been cut.

Rindlisbacher walked across the street where a security guard was patrolling the recently burned student dorms. He asked if the guy had noticed anything.

Why, funny you should ask. There was this black SUV that pulled up right where the blimp was tied, recalled the guard.

An SUV?

That could be an important clue. With gas over $2.50 a gallon, anyone with a fuel-swilling SUV might be tempted by such a cheaper form of transportation.

The guard also remembered hearing the sound of running footsteps after the SUV stopped.

Way to go, Columbo.

Now questions remain. Was the blimp tied to the SUV and towed away like a Thanksgiving Day parade animal? Even in jaded Spokane you’d think a sight this weird would be noticed.

Or was this the work of vandals who got sick kicks in watching a helpless blimp float up, up and away?

If the latter scenario is true, there is but one word to describe the perpetrators of such a senseless crime.

Airheads.



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