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. 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. Random Guy

    Class act.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Iz Teremka Kennel

    The pilot is indeed a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bryan

    This is news CNN.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Nichole

      You read it dim wit, and yes it's news. It's about a hero, something that isn't reported enough

      June 14, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      @Nichole - I think you mis-red him, I don't think Bryan was being negative. I think he was actually being sarcastic to CNN as in "yes run more stories like this instead of the other crap you call news"....if I'm wrong, then forget what I typed and I agree with you! 🙂

      June 14, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      You're pathetic.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      They posted my post late, so I ditto...

      June 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    This man was an expert, so he knew exactly what he was doing when he gave his life to save others.
    It's tremendously sad to lose such a valuable human being.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    deffinitly a hero

    June 14, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. kbomb

    Inspiring. What a sad and rare story. RIP Michael Nerandzic. All the best to his wife, family and friends. Hopefully there is some comfort in knowing your loved one was a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Leslie in US

    God bless him for his most honorable sacrifice. I hope knowing what a hero he is will bring some inner peace to his family and friends.

    John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. SoS

    A true hero. I hope the company does the right thing and makes sure this brave man's family is taken care of.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ed

    As a pilot, I can only hope that I would have the courage to do the same. Blue skies and fair weather Michael.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. fan

    Hat's off man. I can only hope that when it's my time to go that i will be able to go with a small fraction of the honor of this gentleman. Peace and happiness to the family.

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

    I'm sorry I didn't realize someone sacrificing their life for others (let alone strangers) is an opportunity for jokes....was that supposed to be funny or are you just practicing for the jack a$$ of the year award?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • kgriggs0207

      This is the sort of story that brings out the "trolls." Try not to respond to them; they're just looking for a reaction.

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

      I agree. Why didn't he jump knowing the weight of the four passengers were like ballast and the airship would fly high in the sky. I suspect he didn't want the burning airship to float off and kill people. So, he remained on board to ensure it steered from population. I wish MORE humans were willing to stick their lives out like this for the better of mankind. He IS a hero in every sense of the word. My full respect.

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

      huh? float back up? it was on fire or didnt you read the article before?

      June 14, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • amanda

      the courage is unbelievable. something i don't know that i would have had myself. but why aren't these blimps equipped with parachutes? he could have steered it over a field and jumped.

      i guess there are so few crashes that the parachutes would be considered obsolete?

      June 14, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      A parachute would not have helped from 50 to a 100 feet; no time for it to open. The pilot was very courageous, indeed, to steer the craft close enough to the ground for the others to escape, knowing very well that when the people jumped, the craft would rise rapidly. He was putting his own safety out of his thoughts, an act of heroism and selflessness.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      A parachute would not have helped because they are flammable.

      This man was a hero.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.Crobuzon

      Don't retort, report.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary O.

      Is there a story that DOESN'T bring out the trolls?

      June 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt, Charlotte NC

      Not anymore, apparently.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Jokes are how some people deal with pain and loss. After reading the story, I couldn't help but think...

      "18,000 hours of experience piloting airships over 26 years"

      That isn't really that experienced. 18,000 hours in an airship? Thats what? 2 flights?

      June 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pandakannon

      For someone who said 18000 is what, 2 flights, it's 750 days straight worth of flying

      June 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Natalie

      Yep Bill, you got it. It was two 9,000 hour flights–that was his experience. Sheesh! Not good at math?

      June 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChelleShock

      18,000 is 18 THOUSAND hours, not 18 hours.

      June 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Jokes are how lots of people deal with loss. Though I doubt thats the case on here. After reading the story, I couldn't help but think...
      "18,000 hours of experience piloting airships over 26 years"
      Thats not very experienced for a blimp pilot... its only 2 flights.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry Manback

      The joke so nice, you had to tell it twice!

      June 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • trevor

      I miss the hydrogen gas blimps Germany previously deployed. After this the only balloon I'm getting in Germany is at a carnival from a crippled clown! Germans and balloon=tragedy

      June 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fan

    Not the right place for you nonsense. Go back to school, recess is over kid.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. Quiet Professional

    obviously a Professional. We need more such men .

    June 14, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cesar The Chorizo Champ Of Chihuahua

    dirigibles; one of the worst idears man has ever had.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Off topic, but these air ships are actually The safest way to fly!
      This man was definitely a hero! Hat's off to you and your family.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • George

      It wasn't a dirigible, nor a Zeppelin. It was a blimp. Either way, the pilot was a brave hero and deserves our respect and honor.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • George

      god... typo spaz hell for me. " It WAS a dirigible, NOT a Zeppelin. It was a blimp... "

      June 14, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      @George... Dirigible and airship are synonyms. A blimb is a type of non-rigid airship. A Zeppelin is a rigid airship. So anyone can rightly use dirigible in reference to this story. Blimp is only more descriptive.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    That's your comment. "gigedy"? Are you 5?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
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