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. Trix

    Amazing how CNN runs commercials in front of these death and dismemberment videos. In a sense,
    consistent, I suppose, in that they profit from others suffering.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      Interesting point.

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

    I hope the people he died for aren't dbs like you.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. markus

    Very sad he had to die, but nice to see a true hero out there once in a while.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Logan

    Question... if he was able to bring it 2 meters from the ground, why couldn't he just land it completely?

    June 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jojo

    I would have had one passenger jump off and tie off the blimp to something heavy, then everyone could have jumped off and ran for the hills

    June 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fiona

      Ya' think, Jojo? Gee...too bad you weren't at the controls, being so smart and all. I guess you've piloted a lot of airships.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • fiona

      I am sure with your vast experience at flying airships and all the time you had to calmly figure out what you THINK you would do makes you a better pilot and bigger hero. (Rolls eyes.)

      June 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      What I think these twits are trying to say is, if they'd done so, everybody would have had a flaming blimp fall on top of them.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nolagurl

    Wow .... he really is a hero ... he knowlingly sacrificed himself so that others would not come to harm. I hate when the world loses people like this, but ironically it's these types of actions that remind us of how wonderful people can be sometimes. Thank you, Michael Nerandzic, and to his family my sincerest condolences.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sikhead

    ... wow. How ironic.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WildBill

    He died saving others on the ground like Yuri Gagarin did 60 years ago...

    June 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Galt

      A good man. He willbe sorely missed.

      We need more people like him in our world... people to whome the words, honor,duty and responsibility have real meaning. Rest in peace friend and well wishes and condolences to your family.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MrSharkbite,,,

    Damn,,,, ! My sincer codoelacens,,,,,

    June 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Language Alert

      [No comment.]

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

      We haf vays to make you spell, Sharkbite....

      June 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • dogs rule

      Clearly you slept through your English classes.............

      June 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Galt

      Thank you for the expression of your thoughts. My apolgies for the remarks of the adolescent and inane grammar nazis... just another species of troll we all have to deal with in the anonymous world of the internet.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dan

    @ Tim – spoken like a true d-bag.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    Advertisers need to realize that whenever they show an ad before a tragic news story that people will most likely associate their product with a negative feeling.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clay

      No they don't. Make stuff up much?

      June 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • rafael

      If the purpose of an ad is to leave a positive impression then no, Clay, he's not making stuff up. On the other hand, these ads are shuffled to different places at CNN and they don't have control over where it goes (and is something they agree to).

      June 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. stormsun

    This man was a true hero. My thoughts and sympathies go out to his family and friends.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tika

    A true hero I hope the company who owns the blimp or the insurance company offers his family something because he saved both of them tons of money by saving the passengers.

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

      You can definitely say that again!!!

      June 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kirk

    U-Turn, I really was moved by the transcript from the Hindenburg disaster. I appreciate your taking the time to submit it

    June 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fiona

    The word "hero" is overused these days, but this pilot truly was one. Rest in peace.

    (I'm wondering whether the journalists are left with an overwhelming sense of guilt. I think I would be in that situation.)

    June 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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