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. mark

    I am sorry for this man and his wife/family. He epitomized generosity by giving his life for the survivors. No one should take pot shots at this man... Josh.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andre the Giant

    If you're going to call yourself a journalist, you should at least buy a dictionary. The caption under the video refers to it as a "Zeppelin." Unfortunately, Zeppelin is not a synonym for blimp. A Zeppelin is a ridged airship, while a blimp relies on air pressure to maintain its structure. On the bright side, whoever wrote this probably makes less money than the guy who picks up my trash.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Bobobobobobo

      Apply to CNN, then, so they can benefit from your knowledge. SMH

      June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • T

      If you are going to be a jerk, maybe you should focus on resolving your apparent anger issues instead of wasting your time writing unnecessary vitriol. You sound like a sad sack.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Really????

      You're an indiot! A man sacrifced his life to save two others and all you can comment on is a vocabulary lesson and supply a assinine retort.. SHAME ON YOU!! You're a horrible excuse for a human being.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Easy E

      Are you sure it was a zeppelin? To my knowledge, it is only recently that Goodyear has started to build a series of zeppelins to replace the blimps they've been using for decades. The reason being is that while zeppelins over better reliability and performance, they definitely cost more...only recently could they demonstrate a business case to go the zep route thanks to reduced maintenance and fuel costs.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      It was indeed a blimp, and Andre's criticism of CNN's shoddy journalism is valid.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Andre the Giant

      Yes, I'm sure it was a blimp. Zeppelins are much larger and have an internal aluminum structure. A Zeppelin would not have folded over like this. And even if it were a Zeppelin (which I'm 100% certain it's not), they refer to it elsewhere as a blimp. The two are mutually exclusive. It would be like referring to a sparrow as an eagle. They're both birds, but they're completely different types of birds.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike from Chicago

    Very much a hero! I could not do this. Wish he could have saved himself as well.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    Why didn't he jump out with the rest of them if he knew it was going to shoot back up?

    June 14, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Andre the Giant

      Because it could have spun out of control without him at the controls and they all would have died.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      There's a mention in the article of him steering the burning wreckage away from his ground crew.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      Thank you for asking an intelligent question. There are two reasons. First, if he didn't stay at the controls, the passengers would likely not have been able to exit safely. Blimps drift with the wind when they're not actively being controlled. Second, he apparently wanted to get the blimp away from the people on the ground. There's no point in getting people off a burning blimp just to drop flaming wreckage on their heads.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Greg

    There's a magnificent, underrated film called "Lord Jim", in which the hero (Peter O'Toole) faces exactly this moral dilemma at the beginning of then film: whether to stay with a sinking ship in the hopes of saving the passengers, or to jump and save himself.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. See

    Instead of feeding the trolls, just hit the "report abuse" link. Your comments about the troll remain behind after the post has been removed, and scrolling through all those is as annoying as the troll (as is this comment, so keep your comment about my comment to yourself).

    June 14, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. kormallain

    To be selfless in the face of adversity, To protect others while staring death in the face, To be willing to lay down your own life to save those, who otherwise would perish. To be a HERO.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. RunForTheHills

    Commercial pilots are required by law to act in the best safety interests of their passengers. He did nothing heroic or special. He was merely complying with the Law and deserves no accolades. I'm getting sick and tired of people expecting a pat on the back for doing what they're supposed to do.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      Yes it is his duty, and he performed it knowing he would likely die for doing so. I choose to recognize this kind of sacrifice as heroic, no matter how "common" you think it is.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Andre the Giant

      You, on the other hand, deserve every bit of respect you've received in life. Which unfortunately for you, is none.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Everyman

      I'm sick and tired of people who can do nothing but minimize the bravery of others.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Seriously Logical

      Ok – so it is part of his job to do what is in the best interest of his passengers. But it is also a survival instinct to survive yourself. The people who are being given these acolades are people who deny their own survival not just for their passengers but also for the other people who could have been hurt (ie: the ground crew). YOU are a SCHMUCK for downplaying their courage.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Easy E

      Just because someone is required by law to do something does not mean they'll stick around when the s hits the fan.

      You apparently don't know the difference between legal theory and reality. Try getting oout of your mommy's basement for once, fella.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. NMGrrL

    This man is a true hero. My heart goes out to his family, though, because although he died saving others, he is still gone, and their pain is very real and immediate despite his sacrifice. I hope the survivors are forever thankful for every day they have left because of Michael Nerandzic's heroism.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. KC

    What a fine man. What a scary thing, to know what would happen and to do what he felt was his duty.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

    Too bad there weren't a few lawyers in the airship to keep it lower so the hero pilot could have jumped out.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • duh...winning

      Or bankers, politicians, etc...

      June 14, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    It's a terrible tragedy, but what else could the pilot do? He was doomed no matter what. I don't regard his actions as heroism so much as level-headedness, possibly an even greater trait.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Carawaigh

    Somehow I don't think you read the article.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. venieboy

    you're kind of a db, aren't you?

    June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. Zach

    test

    June 14, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
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