Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash
A Goodyear blimp plunges to the ground after catching fire over Germany on Sunday.
June 14th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash

An Australian blimp pilot killed in a crash of his airship was being hailed as a hero Tuesday for saving the lives of three other people aboard the doomed craft.

Michael Nerandzic was trying to land a Goodyear blimp at an airfield in Reichelsheim, Germany, when his passengers, three journalists, smelled fuel and heard a loud noise from an engine, according to news reports, including one in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia.

Realizing the ship was in danger, Nerandzic lowered it to just two meters (6.5 feet) off the ground and told the journalists to jump, according to the news reports.

Time.com: Harrowing photos as blimp catches fire, crashes

With the loss of ballast from the three passengers, the blimp shot up to 50 meters (165 feet) in the air, caught fire and then crashed.

Nerandzic's wife, Lyndy, told Australia's ABC Sydney that her husband sacrificed himself to save his passengers.

"When there was trouble on the airship he brought it down to as low as he could to let the passengers jump out and he stayed at the controls," ABC quoted Lyndy Nerandzic as saying. "As soon as they jumped out, of course, being an airship, he knew it would rise up and it did. They found him still at the controls when it crashed. He also steered it away from his ground crew."

"When they told me what he had done for the passengers, it didn't surprise me one little bit," she told the Illawarra Mercury. "He was a character. He was larger than life. He was so, so generous."

When the crash occurred, the airship was returning from a trip taking the journalists  a photographer from the Bild newspaper and two from the RTL TV network  to get aerial shots of a local festival, Spiegel Online reported.

The owners of the blimp, the Lightship Group, said in an "in memoriam" announcement on their website that Nerandzic, 53, was "one of the world's most experience airship pilots," with 18,000 hours of experience piloting airships over 26 years.

"Our thoughts at this time go to his wife and family, his colleagues past and present and many friends worldwide," the company's statement said.

The Lightship Group describes itself as the world's largest airship operator, with clients including Goodyear, Met Life, General Motors, DirecTV and Sanyo.

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Filed under: Australia • Aviation • Germany • World
soundoff (405 Responses)
  1. cliff

    Heros are a dying breed. I salute this man.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    He earned his salvation.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Cletus

    Well done sir, well done.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. S.L.

    I don't know this man, but, what he did is what legends are made from. Whether he is a hero in either the modern or classic tragedy sense, I don not know, but, nonetheless he is, all his flaws not stated or forgotten, a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. HERO

    oops Lindsay

    June 14, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. gman21

    God bless these heroes and their families!

    June 14, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. PCola Vet

    You know be glad your behind a computer, because you need to be flat out beetch slapped for a STUPID remark like that. What a low life. My condolences to his wife and family, and yes, he IS a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • betty

      What a snivilling wimp.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sebastian

      I've notices it's always the loudmouth chest pounders that try and pass themselves off as real vets.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. prgmr6

    Please peeps, read the article, THE PILOT COULDN'T JUMP FROM THE DAM BLIMP, he was busy saving the journos.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ron Jeremy

    His life wasn't meant to be the butt of your joke.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. prgmr6

    and no, jeebus didn't save him.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. Pilot

    Truly sad, however if he was at an airport, he could have made the choice to jump off as well.

    1. The blimp was on fire already, knowing it likely would hit the envelope any minute, it would go down, not fly onwards to another location.

    2. Jumping off, it would rise and continue forward somewhat, perhaps coming down on them, maybe not.

    So it's up in the air, he decided to stay, and I respect him for that decision. Good job.

    What I don't like is the blatent CNN move of comparing this to the hindenburg, they are worlds apart.

    The hindenburg had a lightning, or static electricity strike, which ignited HYDROGEN being used at the time.

    This airship used HELIUM, and the envelope caught fire from an ENGINE fire.

    Totally different story, causual factors, in every way.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • somuchfor

      Using words like "causal" doesn't make you intelligent or learned. You appear to be neither.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      From the article which you supposedly read:
      "With the loss of ballast from the three passengers, the blimp shot up to 50 meters (165 feet) in the air, caught fire and then crashed."
      " "As soon as they jumped out, of course, being an airship, he knew it would rise up and it did. They found him still at the controls when it crashed. He also steered it away from his ground crew." "
      Meaning:
      There was NO opportunity for him to jump, if he wanted to save the lives of his passengers, and the ground crew.
      This was a responsible decision by an experienced pilot. The heroism comes from knowing that protecting others would put his own life at risk.
      And what's NOT in this article: Any mention at all of the Hindenberg.
      Next time, try reading for comprehension.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Perfesser Firefly

    Good thing Captain Nerandzic was at the controls of that airship rather than some of the low-wattage halfwits I've seen "commenting" here. For crying out LOUD, people! The man sacrificed his life to save three others. He probably didn't jump out *himself* because he was thinking AHEAD and thinking RESPONSIBLY. Gee, what a concept!!

    So, one knucklehead claims "yes, I'm a pilot." Whoopee. OK, Alec Baldwin, are you licensed to fly or have you logged ANY hours in an LTA (Lighter Than Air) craft? No? I didn't think so. So go have a nice big bowl of STFU, n'kay?
    And you have a nice day, too.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Barry from Wisconsin

      I agree completely Perfesser. I am a pilot as well (non-flying now). During the few emergencies I encountered, you do not have a lot of time to perform analysis. This blimp pilot was, IMHO, a hero as he thought of the safety of his passengers first.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mikey

    RIP to a genuine "Aviator" in every sense of the word, and a true hero. Keep the blue side up.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. somuchfor

    Your idea of irony is twisted and an insult to this man and his family.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. somuchfor

    Don't insult this man and his family.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
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