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. Guest

    Wow, that is one selfless pilot. He probably didn't even think twice about whether he should jump or take care of the passengers first. All this death from terrorists, and all it takes is one great act like that to remind me of the good in humans as well.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • somuchfor

      Right on the money. Good post.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Not.A.Surfer

    Sikhead, you'll never make it to Hollywood with basic jokes like that. I'm not offended but its clear you want to be a Showbiz comedian and you're boring people (offending some people) but overall you are just plain boring and not entertaining. Keep up the work.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    Thats a true Hero in my book.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ron

    Rest In Peace Michael. You truly are a hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    This pilot died a hero on his own.
    Don't try to give his personal glory to a deity.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. jorgw washinsen

    Should shut this one down. The man deserves better.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. somuchfor

    Oh, brilliant retort. And you missed the point.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bates

    This pilot was a stand up figure and a gleaming example of how a human being should act. If only more were like you good sir. My heart and prayers go out to the family of this man, I hope they don't mourn him, but rather praise and cherish the fact that he made the ultimate selfless sacrifice.

    Germany just doesn't seem to have much luck with blimps and the like. Time to move on an concentrate on what you are good at Germany: Overpriced cars with electrical problems, the BEST beer in the world, sausage, and e-coli. Well maybe not that last one >.>

    June 14, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      thanks for completely ruining the good part of your post with a completely uncalled for swipe at Germany.
      I should point out that heroic self-sacrifice is also very much part of the German character.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • ST

      @Carawaigh- Unless of course there's a dictator in charge. Then all they do is follow orders like little ants and murder thousands of people. Where's the self-sacrifice again?

      June 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Darth Cheney

    We've become so jaded that people can no longer discriminate sarcasm from sincerity. HERO – good post.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. jaintn

    You pathetic weasel.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Harley Sporster 883

    A truly selfless act! A reminder to his loved ones of the class act he was.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Lean6

      Selfless indeed. I don't know much about blimps, but it surprises me that they don't have shear devices to cut away the balloon/sail in cases like these.

      June 14, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • albatross

      a true captain! he did what was necessary to carry the ship to the last possible end.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nordberg

    Great movie quote, but bad place for it.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Meh

    I'm all for trrolling and joking but even I know it's poor taste to joke about people who've given their life to save others. I wish he had jumped out too though... R.I.P

    June 14, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • douglas's too bad that he didn't jump...I mean, he was also down low. I suppose there was no button to release all the air so it wouldn't go back up again?

      June 14, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Denim

      He probably realized that if he jumped out, there was no telling where the blimp would go. Who needs an out of control flaming blimp?

      June 14, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      @Douglas, no, there wasn't. Also, the control cabin and engines would have come crashing down to the ground, and the engines were on fire. He stayed at the controls to get the blimp clear and save the lives of the people on the ground. This is a very hard thing for anyone to do when they know doing it will probably kill them.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • brian

      DEADINSIDE ..... i hope 1 day you get caught in a house fire .go troll somewhere else you low life piece of trash

      June 14, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • duh...winning

      deadinside...your name says it all. I am assuming you mean inside your head.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    This was a brave man, and an example to all.
    He epitomizes what a hero is.

    My condolences to his family.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Carawaigh

    Oh so clever.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
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