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.

Post by:
Filed under: Australia • Aviation • Germany • World
soundoff (405 Responses)
  1. mike s

    this does deserve to be front page news, i second that notion

    June 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SarahPalin

    Someone once called me a blimp. I'm not a blimp! I'm an airhead!

    June 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      I'm not a blimp.....i'm a human being!!!!!

      June 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jane

    His soul will surely rest in peace!

    June 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Obviously a hell of a lot more people than will care when your sorry carcass gets lost.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BigNutz

    Wow....No really, saying that kind of stuff really makes you cool. In that "Hard, no feelings" kinda way. Dude, you probably wrote that between pimple popping sessions after you lifted your belly up to scratch some yeast out. Why don't you go consume some more Bon Bon's and Diet Coke and save the "Tormented Soul"'s old.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deep North

    My prayers for the family in their sorrow. This man is a cut above Sullenberger as he sacrificed all to save his passengers. Kudos and Godspeed!

    June 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Edward

    I know I sure as hell wouldn't have done this.

    This man is the epitome of a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dreamer96

      Don't sell yourself short no one knows till it just happens.

      I heard about a guy I knew that always seemed to be in trouble, with the law, with relationships, divorced, argued with friends, that kind of thing, would get drunk, start fights and yell at people.

      Then several years later, I heard he died.

      He was doing road repair work up in the mountains, on one of the sections with a steep drop off.

      He was driving a small CAT bulldozer clearing the edge of the road, they were putting in new guard rails.

      They had signs out to tell drivers to go slow and all that, but a car full of people came around the corner to fast heading right for the section with no rail, and this guy I knew put his Cat in the way.

      The car was saved but he went over the edge and died.

      I foundout he had gotten married and left a wife and kid behind, everyone calls him a hero now...

      June 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Diz

    Sometimes I look around and think that there aren't any good people left out there that will do the right thing... then I hear a story like this and my faith in the human race is somewhat restored 🙂 This man was a hero and all ya'll who want to bag on him or his family are the exact reasons that leave me without faith.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. scott williamson

    Now that is what I call a man.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Clayton

    Very sad to hear this. I'm amazed at what he did to help save the others which ultimately led to his demise. I'm saddened even more at the people on this board who show a general lack of care. Can't expect more from most people though. I just hope the people he helped save value their lives even more.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. j

    The man was a hero. Plain and simple. For all you wanna be comedians...SHUT UP! Get help.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cogitoergosu

    A true hero. RIP. Too few these days. Please take note America, this is what sacrifice is all about. Selfless!

    June 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dude2000

    Quick question...why couldnt this guy have jumped out as well? I guess he needed to pilot it that close to the ground but I would think he would maybe take the chance and they all jump for it at once.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dreamer96

      Yeah he probably was not thinking about himself at that moment...says alot about the guys character doesn't it.

      He might not have been able to just jump up and run to the door.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ss

      He might have also done everything he could to work it so it would crash away from anyone else. Without a pilot, I would imagine (albeit I'm no airship pilot) it would fly around uncontrolled and potentially landed on top of them, or maybe even somewhere else (like a town center).

      June 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Winning

    People who make stupid remarks only do that because they are starving for attention their mommas didn't give them as children and they miss their babas.Mothers need to stop breast feeding their teens.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dreamer96

    I don't think this kind of thing happens very often, or they would have a fire suppression system for the gas and motors, like planes do.

    They could have had an emergency release of the crew cab, or gondola, a drop down system that the pilot could have used, to lower the crew cabin and then release it from the blimp.

    When the passengers jumped out the blimp was only 6.5 feet off the ground.

    They could have had an emergency gun powered ground cable system that fired a straight metal spike into the ground, to anchor the blimp to the ground so the pilot could jump off.

    All this would have added some weight and they would only have done it if it happened more often. Maybe now they will think about something.

    June 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16