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. Susan

    proof that heroes come from every walk of life. my heart goes out to the family and friends.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Byrd

    I truly hope this incredibly brave man is recognized by both the Australian and German governments for this most selfless of acts.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Heartened

    It is people like this pilot who give me a glimmer of hope that the human spirit is still alive and not ruled by the selfishness and pettiness that seems so abundant in the world today.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    Wow, very touching. This man truly was a modern day hero. My condolances to the family. Because of him, 3 people are alive today.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Colin in Florida

    The word hero is overused these days. Sports stars are routinely called heros, which they are not. Michael Nerandzic is a true hero. My condolences to his family.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ellie

    You guys are all a bunch of idiots. this man died to save people and you are either cracking jokes about it, or yelling at the jokers. HOW ABOUT YOU ALL SHUT UP AND THINK! or have a moment of silence. Don't be such losers. And stop kidding. A MAN DIED. how could you even joke about something like that? my daughter burst into tears when she heard this. that shows how smarter she is than any of you

    June 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry Manback

      how smarter? really?

      June 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry Manback

      Also, yes, it's touching that someone can make such a selfless sacrifice...but crying over the lost soul of someone you don't know at all, does not make you inherently "smart".

      June 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    May God Rest his soul. For there is no greater love than one man who sacrifices his life for another. This pilot was a hero in every sense of the word. I feel for the loss of his family

    June 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. unowhoitsme

    Wow...very unselfish. A real hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff

    Captain Sully has got nothing on this guy.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey

    Sad to see such a noble person go. BTW, what is with blimp accidents in Germany?

    June 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. FLZunner

    Try reading the article again. Australia and Germany are a little ways apart. Ignoramous.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kimberly

    God Bless this incredible human being. People like this are made of something special. RIP.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron Paul for president

      yea its called morality and faith....ohh yea maybe a clean slate.

      June 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • AreYouKiddingMe

      @ Ron Paul for president....and exactly what from this article lead you to the conclusion that this man "has faith"?!?

      June 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred

      Guts and honor. Hey Teabagger @ ronpaul idiot, why don't you try to have some independant thought? you might like it,

      June 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      I have never once been ripped off by my insurance company, oh Insurance. Not one time have they ever failed to pay for anything that was covered by my policy, and they paid in an extremely timely fashion without raising my rate, even though I live in Texas where people can get screwed by their insurance company, thanks to our wonderful legislature which doesn't know how to do anything except raise their own salaries. The first time I filed a claim, I was stunned that they wrote a check right on the spot and even made sure they didn't close the claim in case something else came up I hadn't seen yet. Not all insurance companies are scammers and if yours is, change! Mine is Nationwide, and no, I don't work for them.

      About the heroic actions of this airship pilot. It is so sad he did not survive, but he was an amazing person to save others knowing he would not make it himself. A true hero....

      June 15, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Arne

      The Definition of a Hero.True Nobility and Purity of Soul. A shining example of what we all need to strive for.
      As for Ron Paul and friends, you are showing unable crassness to be talking politics in the comments area for this story. Not only is it in bad taste like cheering at a funeral, but he is Australian and it happened in Germany. BIG DUH for you guys!!

      June 15, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Adnan

    It is in Germany. The pilot is an Australian national but the incident took place in Germany; you can tell from the label "Germany" and the rescue crew obviously speaking German.

    June 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bill

    Hey FLZunner.......try doing a little reading yourself!

    June 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dean

    Why didn't the pilot just jump out with the rest of the people? Surely a runaway blimp couldn't cause THAT much damage.

    June 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maebytcat

      Maybe he knew it would blow up and decided to get the passengers out as soon as possible, and then steer it as far away from them as he could? That's my guess.

      June 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dano973

      To get the blimp down quickly he would have had to push the controls straight down and hold them. The door to the copula isn't near the pilot seat. So he wouldn't have been able to just jump out. I'm sure he was struggling to keep the nose pointed down while the other 3 got out safely. And like they said, as soon as the others got out, the blimp shot up in the air... so he knew he wouldn't have time. He did a courageous thing to just get the others out safely. God rest his soul and look after his family.

      June 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arne

      Dean he was getting the Blimp away from the ground crew and the people he just saved. Like his wife said he knew it would rise but it could have crashed back down on everyone. He sacrificed himself twice, once for his passengers and then for everyone on the ground. His wife's statement shows she shares his nobility and awesome spirit. My heart goes out for her, but I think she feels that if he had to die, then this was a great way to go. When the crunch came and he was faced with the true horror of imminent death he passed the test with the highest possible marks. I just wish I could give his wife a big hug.

      June 15, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Burnie

      Many a brave pilot has given his or her life so that the ground crews and civilians and possibly homes or other aircraft in the area would be spared. The man is a hero, he could have jumped with the others, and with no one at the controls let it blow up next to the journalists, but he stayed at the controls and got it as far from people as he could. The man's a hero.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
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