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. Dee

    Are you that big of an idiot in real life??????

    June 15, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dee

    My condolences to his family..and may he RIP.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Judy

    what a schmuck you are, Saul.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Craig

    Shame that this man had to die, but it's superb that he ended up saving some lives!

    June 15, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. Elle

    I had the privilege of riding in the Goodyear Blimp years ago above the central California coast, and it was the most magnificent experience. The slow speed let us see all the beauty passing beneath us; it was like the dream you have as a child - rising effortlessly and floating weightless, feeling so safe and serene, all your troubles far below, and you aloft... I feel terrible that this poor fellow lost his life. He brought great joy to a lot of people while he lived, but also to himself I am sure. I hope that better safety features will prevent anything like this ever happening again. I really wish there were more blimps and people could travel this gentle way instead of the nasty experience that air travel has become. BTW, I am the daughter of a pilot, and my dad was a hero too.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. jayman419

    My thoughts go out to this Nerandzic's family. As terrible as this situation is, I'm hope it helps ease their minds at least a little bit knowing that there are many other families who would also be mourning if not for his incredibly selfless actions.

    On a sadder note, I really wish I could say that I'm surprised at the commentators who are using this forum to express their political beliefs, discuss their insurance companies, make assumptions about his religion, or any of the other idiocy that's running rampant in these posts.

    You should use this time to humbly reflect upon your own behavior, and compare it to the example set by Nerandzic. In other words, why don't you stop a minute to smell what you're shoveling?

    June 15, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Ali

      I wish the passengers would have held ontp the blimp after jumping off and waited for him to jump out too.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Fine Example

    If only the general population would have an ounce of the bravery that this man had. He showed himself to be a true man of character. Well done, Rest In Peace.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
    • rhoelsch

      I've located pictures of the crash I haven't seen anywhere else on the web, including one that appears to be right after the fire broke out...hopefully it can help others determine the cause of the accident...

      June 16, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      Yeah unlike that air force coward that bailed and killed people on ground in san diego this guy saved lives.

      June 19, 2011 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    Could I have would I have done the same thing? No. What a good and decent man. Shame theres more mes in this world and less hims.

    June 15, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lesley Travell

    None of you should be making comments because quiet clearly. None of you know about the laws of Physics. Mike knew what would happen if he did not get out . My heart goes out to his Wife.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Henry

    God bless his family and rest his soul he sacraficed himself to save others theres no jokes on this matter so stop!

    June 16, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. pedant

    "being an airship, he knew ..." he wasn't an airship!

    June 16, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. AGuest9

    A true Captain of his craft, dying so that his passengers and ground crew could survive. He is truly a hero. Rest in Peace.

    June 16, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. agranderson

    Pilots are the best! Don't ever forget Skully!

    June 16, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. john smith

    this is what a pilot is supposed to do. well done! i hope you children were left behind.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. moishe

    I'm sad for the loss of his life, the loss sustained by his family and friends. I'm grateful for his courage in the face of fear.

    If only we could consider it of prime importance –and spend the time and money– to make our technology safer. Longer time to market and expense is, to me, worth it if it give humans a chance to survive.

    I mean, the U.S. DARPA and NASA have announced, and are working on, the "Hundred-Year Starship" project that will send humans away from earth permanently, yet we can't even get blimps and airplanes here at home safe for use.


    June 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
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