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. mark

    Job well done Mr. Nerandzic, job well done... R.I.P

    June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Grandpa RD

    I agree, this Man IS a true hero, and I pray his spouse is generously compensated for the loss of this gentleman. I've always heard the saying "The Captain goes down with his ship". Now I understand that saying a bit more. *Snaps to attention and salutes* RIP good Sir. Your watch is now over.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • BD

      Your prayers are futile. Do something useful instead, like, send her a gift basket or something.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. aacon

    I would have jumped out with them saying to hell with the blimp just hoping like hell it wouldn`t hurt anyone and anything too.Guess I`m not very much of the hero type.True hero Michael Nerandzic .He should be awarded posthumously the higest heroic award(s) / honor(s) their is.Thrice.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike Hobart

      A true hero. I imagine that he unfortunately did not have time to get out of the blimp from the piloting position before it went up. It would have started going up as soon as the passengers jumped.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Someone had to stay at the controls to keep the blimp at that 2 meter spot. If he let up on the controls it would have floated upwards.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. erich2112x

    Heaven has a new blimp pilot. Michael Nerandzic, you're far braver the the rest of us.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. DOC


    June 14, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      Maybe he can find your caps lock button in heaven.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. Grumpster

    I dunno..but if it were me, I'd have jumped out too and left the blimp go where it wanted. Too bad for the guy......I can't remember when I'd ever think a blimp would crash these days – last one I heard of was the Hindenburg...but that wasn't a helium blimp...but a hydrogen zeppelin. Big difference.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike Hobart

      The article explains that it was an engine fire, when the fire damaged the lift bags the blimp would crash.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • amanda

      he was an extraordinarily good man and was worried the blimp would crash somewhere it could hurt unwitting people.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Don't assume that the Hindenberg fire was based on hydrogen. It's a popular belief. It might not be correct. The skin of the Hindeberg was painted with a substance that, as scientists later figured out, could be used as rocket fuel.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. uofoo

    Michael Nerandzic, I salute you.
    I hope the memory of your extraordinary character gives your family comfort.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. yellow22

    Giving your life up for others is truly heroic...someone wrote it's no big deal because that's what his job demands but a person who takes a job like that, and is willing to give up his life, is something not too many people are prepared to still makes him a hero in anyone's book!

    June 14, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. emtz

    another Hindenburg disaster in the same country!

    June 14, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Uh, not so much, that happened in NJ usa.

      June 14, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Lakehurst, New Jersey. Germany...

      June 14, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      Another idiot on the keys on the same planet. What are the odds?

      June 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MotoJB


    June 14, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tac

    Thats nice..crack a joke when a man just gave his life for others. You have no class.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    Witnesses say that they could hear the pilot's screams as he was barreling down to the ground. 🙁

    RIP Michael. My deeply felt condolences to his wife, family and friends.


    June 14, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. yellow22

    see what happens on a steady diet of MTV...inability to join a think the whole world is built on sarcasm ... this is truly a very sad story...somebody lost their you really understand what that means!

    June 14, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. U-Turn

    Actually, Carawaigh, I did. Unfortunately, you need to go back and retake history. You obviously do not recall the Hindenburg accident. The above is the radio broadcast that was recorded during that accident and broadcast teh following day.


    June 14, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  15. hugh george gazim

    Was it a Goodyear?
    – No, the worst.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
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