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. BeerBrewerDan

    Yeah, nice job. I'd like to think I possess that kind of bravery and clear-headedness. I wonder...

    June 14, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. Josh

    He could have jumped off the blimp at the same time with the 3 other journalists. Not a smart move on his part.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • honorable

      That may have risked the blimp crashing somewhere dangerous. I think that's why he stayed at the controls.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Yes, that's what the article said.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • S

      Oh, so you're a blimp pilot then??

      June 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      And your credentials?

      June 14, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • chibidw

      "They found him still at the controls when it crashed. He also steered it away from his ground crew."

      Reading comprehension, do you has?

      June 14, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      Josh, This man is a true pilot. He gave his life to get the blimp out of the way of his passengers. If he jumped, the blimp would have landed on the passengers. He gave his life to ASSURE that others were saved. There is a special place in heaven for people like him. You should HONOR what he has done.


      June 14, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • John Galt


      June 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred

      well said Jess

      June 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      And YES I am also a pilot


      June 14, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Pilot

      blimp ballast is extremely thin. you're not flying, you're floating on helium and oxygen. if you take your hands off the pitch control, it will float upward.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • trevor

      The good ol' hydrogen gas blimp days are over.... How disappointing... until now!

      June 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • bourneblogger

      You guys are all being so mean to Josh... I think what he's saying is true... It's too bad he didn't at least try and put it on auto-pilot at even 10 or 15 feet and attempt to jump off with the other passengers... Either way, the pilot seems he was a very noble man...

      June 14, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Iman Azol

      Blimps don't generally have autopilot, and it's probably not something you can do at 10 feet off the ground in the middle of a show.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Auto pilot isn't what you think it is... and most blimps don't have it.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • DV

      All I can say is you are a moron Josh.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      So Josh, what you are saying is that if he jumped to save himself and then the blimp crashed into a neighborhood and killed innocent bystanders, that would've been ok – or would you then called him wreckless? The pilot knew exactly what he was doing and god bless him for making such a heroic decision and attempting to control the ship and save his passengers and the folks on the ground.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. MC

    No Greater Love Than Ones Laying Down His or Hers Life for Fellow man or Women, In Jesus name !

    June 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • NVBrat

      Get a grip – it doesn't even mention religion in this article.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      You Have TOTALLY Abused The Pronoun Capitalization!

      June 14, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      It never ceases to amaze that when someone brings up Jesus, the venom and hostility generated is over the top yet the Jesus folk don't lash out at their attackers.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Dannon

      In the Easter Bunny's name....

      June 14, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • GeorgeWBush


      bible beaters are THE most venomous people I've ever been around; they discriminate and are judgemental. The statement you made is completely untrue..........

      June 14, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Julius

      Collins, are you kidding me? By the way, the reason I posted my previous comment was because the pilots death is a very personal matter for his family. I'm not saying he is, but what if he's Buddhist, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim? Would his family like you pushing Jebus onto them?
      Thats why I'm saying – keep your religion to yourself.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Shaman13

      @Julius – What is it with YOU freaks trying to exclude Jesus from everything?

      June 14, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • PinkStapler

      What business is it of yours that this person wants to hail the courageous man's sacrifice in Jesus' name? Leave them be. It is their prerogative, just as it is yours, to exclaim their faith. You have no right to attack it.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Trish

      Shaman, "Excluding" and "Asking to keep something to yourself and not push it on others" are two COMPLETELY different things.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • dma

      Why didn't jesus prevent the crash? He seems to be there AFTER every disaster.

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

      Jesus Says Learn proper Capitalization.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Hey now, don't drag the Easter Bunny into this! It always amazes me how these pilots can keep such a clear head in the face of disaster. So often knowing it's them or the crowd, buildings, roads, what have you. These men were truly blessed to be with this pilot.

      June 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. csam18

    Wow.. what a heart felt story. Rest in peace my friend. It's always amazing to see selfless acts such as this.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. honorable

    Michael Nerandzic, I salute you. May you pilot the heavens now.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. Douglas

    Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. JOHN 15:13

    Good Man.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Barry

    Well done, Michael Nerandzic.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Captain Obvious

    Please don't feed the trolls.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. S

    Could you not be an idiot and realize this has nothing to do with politics, but with an everyday hero? Are you this bored with life? If so donate your organs to someone who will make better use out of them.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. JohnnyJett & The Dirty Socks

    They should name an air field or airship in his honor; this was a brave soul. Condolences to his wife and family, you have great reason to be proud of Michael for his heroism, and for being an all around good man.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      Well said.

      I agree.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Emilio Esteves

    Why didnt he jump out, too????

    June 14, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Julius

      Read the article to find out!

      June 14, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Laslow

      Because then there would be nobody to control the crash. It could have veered back and killed everyone that just jumped off.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • NotClearWhyNoJump

      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 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Go @#$% yourself. This guy was a true pilot who's death should be remembered, as well as the risk that all aviators assume when they take to the skies. Save your political rants for someplace where people care. Get a life.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Police

      Nice language

      June 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lifesaver

    He had to remain at the controls in order to control the ship. He could not jump out too. Great man.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. you're clearly no hero

    @Josh – if he hadn't stayed in the airship, it could have flown into a building or a crowd of people and killed many more people. He did the right and honorable thing. Guess you never will...

    June 14, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Duane W

    This is what it means to be a hero, I bet the people saved will always remember you.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
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