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. Rob

    This guy embodies the word hero. Not like our faux-heroes that land planes in water. This is probably the extent of what you'll hear about this guy from the U.S. media.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Radhika

      Well said.........Should appreciate his courage and brave and dedication towards his profession

      June 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. heliocracy

    What is it about Germans and flaming blimps?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaddingtonPoohBear

      Well, I believe the Hindenburg was using Hydrogen because the US stopped selling Helium to them. I saw on PBS that its skin was highly flammable also so it still might have burned and crashed, just not as quickly if it was using Helium perhaps. The US has a pretty poor record when it comes to early airships also, probably even worse than the Germans.

      My thoughts are with his family, that was a brave thing he did.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mushhushshu

      The Hindenberg was an airship....this was a blimp....not the same thing although they look similar.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. ciscoheat

    I'm always amazed when someone suffers a catastrophic loss such as this whole incident yet someone can say such careless things about them as if they have no heart. How bad do we want attention on blog sites?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hey dick

    Agree with what other people have said but how badly we all wanna be stars in times grieving that we'd make a statement but why does the media have to bug someone so constantly for a statement after her death. She didn't go search for the media to tell his story, she made a statement. I guarantee the media snuffed her out. Always helps with coping when we speak nicely about the person and what they've done.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. patanakki

    Lets not forget a man lost his life. I suspect that many of the negative comments are by people who deep down inside doubt they would have had the strength to do what he did.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whoa

    Star? Geez... lighten up, dude.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tom W

    Good thing it wasn't filled with hydrogen.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sebastian

    I'm thinking wag the dog. Praise the dead guy to draw attention away from Goodyear. Hand the widow a script with a few thousand dollars in an envelope. Next they'll hire some republican mouthpiece to make a hero out of the dead guy and anounce some house proclamation... They have no shame.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judy

      idiot – read the article – the crash was in Germany – you know, that country in Europe – where in your half (maybe) a brain come up with the 'Republican mouthpieace' come in. (BTW I'm a Dem)

      June 15, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. April

    Saul, oh yeah, you have her all figured out...she will be rising to fame now! You have no compassion at all! She is a woman who is making a statement about the character of her dead husband. Show some respect and stop being a petty DB.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce H

    See if you yourself can make a statement with any lucidity in the minutes or even days following the loss of your life mate. Yours is a cheap shot for your own aggrandizement. Go retire under the rock you slithered from.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bwp88

    II'm with you Saul. Is that really the first thing that comes to mind? Making a statement to the media?

    June 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Johnny

    Seriously? wow man..

    June 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tallulah13

    What a brave man. For what it's worth, my thoughts and best wishes are with his family.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    He thinks this makes her a star. Ya, this should put her into the top ten people list, that others are jealous of.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. GrowlerDriver

    As a pilot myself I always wonder if I'll have the ability to courageously act as this man did and sacrifice myself to save others. If there were more like him in the world it certainly would be a better place.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
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