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Air Supply Cut in Blimp Accident

January 30, 2000

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) _ Two workers killed inside an experimental blimp at an airport hangar apparently suffocated after ordering an air pump shut off, authorities said.

Levon Samamyam, 35, of Burbank, and Marina Pasternak, 32, of Los Angeles, were pronounced dead Thursday after being pulled unconscious from the blimp.

The two were patching punctures inside the blimp when they ordered other crew members to shut off an air pump. They wanted to partially collapse an inner balloon so they could reach a hole, according to the San Bernardino Fire Department.

Helium that had gathered at the top of the balloon apparently displaced remaining oxygen, authorities said.

Autopsies were performed Friday, but toxicology tests were pending and it could take up to two months to determine the specific cause of death, said San Bernardino County Coroner Jim Sedgwick.

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