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)

    Love to the wife

    June 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ScipioRising

    Give it a rest.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. What?!?!

    How did you turn a heroic act into a freakin political statement? What the hell is wrong with you!

    June 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      If Ron Paul's followers think that the death of a brave man is an appropriate opportunity to champion their candidate, then both he and them aren't worthy of being called Americans.

      June 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay Crandall

      You sir, are a cheesy little maggot. Don't forget to wipe...

      June 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sal Monilla

    You couldn't pay me to board one of those floating time bombs!

    June 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sparky

    germans and blimps... not a good combination.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      Idiots and keyboards. Not a good combination either, yet here you are.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. really?


    Yeah cuz we're all experiencing economic prosperity right now under a liberal democrat for a president....wake up and realize it doesn't matter who is in office...America is broke....but at least we still have heroes in this world saving lives like this zeppelin pilot

    June 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Neerav

    Somehow, this reminds me of the Hindenburg disaster. Wierd.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      There are some huge differences. The Hindenberg was filled with hydrogen, which is very flammable; the hydrogen ignited and the whole ship fell to the ground on top of its landing site, killing hundreds of passengers, crew, and ground crew. There was no time to prevent the disaster. In this case the blimp was filed with non-flammable helium, the engine is what caught on fire, and shortly after ignited the gas bag. The pilot held the blimp on the ground long enough for the passengers to escape, then steered the blimp away from the landing site to protect the people on the ground, and the pilot was the only person killed.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      I wonder how......

      June 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Moe Smith

    Bravo to the pilot for being "The Man".

    Shame on the media for misidentifying the airship. This was NOT a Goodyear Blimp. It was an Airship with the Goodyear logo. It's no different than you are looking at this site from your browser... It's NOT the CNN Browser, is it? Correct answer: No. It's internet explorer, firefox, chrome, safari... whatever with CNN displayed on it at the moment.

    Way to fnckup the story cnn.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Captain

      Yes, it was an airship with the Goodyear logo. Commonly referred to as.....a Goodyear Blimp. Good work on nit-picking and sounding like an idiot.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • k

      way to focus on the details that really matter in this story...

      June 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Usaywha?

      Airship with huge Goodyear Logo on it = Goodyear Blimp.

      Way to go to the pilot for his bravery and sacrifice. I hope his family finds peace in reflecting on the wonderful times they had the pleasure of spending with him while he was here.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      A very detailed post. Incredible how you detailed so finely how much of an idiot you truly are....... It's only fitting you have the name of one of the stooges.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gary O.

    Easy, Dennis K. I get the feeling that the gov't has little control over the gas prices, unless they are going to open up the strategic reserve, which is a short-term solution, at best.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lola

    Angry much? what a deranged comment, out-of-place comment.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

    First off, he is indeed a hero, and nothing can deny him that. Next thought is this: why is anyone still flying gas-filled highly-flammable dirigibles, or owning and operating them, for that matter? At least if a plane is struck by lightning or a fire breaks out in the engine or on board, there is still a very good chance the plane will be able to land. Only a big explosion coming from the fuel tanks or a sudden depressurization can bring down a jet today, short of the pilot wanting to crash the plane or a very serious failure of the controls system. (Both of those last are such rare occurrences as to be virtually discountable.)

    Dirigibles are dinosaurs. Time for them to go extinct.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Blimps are filled with non-flammable helium. The fuel from the engine caught fire and caused the blimp to crash. It didn't explode like the hindenburg.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • TemplesOfSyrinx

      Several things here Matt: Firstly, they were flying a blimp, not a dirigible. A blimp is a big bag of lighter-than-air gas affixed with a gondola with motors for steering. A dirigible, like the Hindenburg, has an internal rigid structure, and have largely been phased out. Secondly, the gas used in modern blimps is helium, a non flammable gas. The article mentioned that passengers smelled fuel and heard a sound coming from the motors. I suspect engine failure caused the fire. Poor maintenance or just bad luck here. Lastly, there is no question that the pilot saved lives in the air and on the ground, by sacrificing his own life. A true hero.

      June 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @Dave and TemplesOfSyrinx: Thanks for setting my facts straight, I guess I needed it. I still think however these are devices whose time has come and gone and ought to be retired. BTW, TemplesOfSyrinx, I catch the references and say YEAH to that!

      June 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lola

    At Gary O., the gov't could reduce the cost of gasoline by about 40 to 48 cents per gallon if they stopped taxing it. They make around 48 cents per gallon (depending where you live), while oil companies make 2 cents profit per gallon. What does the gov't do with that money? they spend it on everything, BUT the intended purpose of fixing/building roads.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaggieMay

      Actually, Lola, that funding is distributed to the states for both highway and public transportation spending. It is very close to being a user fee, which is much fairer than taxing everyone. You drive a lot, you pay more for the upkeep of the roads. and you also contribute towards public transportation, which gets cars off the road, so that you can actually claim a piece of the overcrowded pavement for your use.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • SKEE HEE

      I am a road engineer Lola. WE USE IT ALL and are still short of funds to build 'em. You should be paying more in taxes, your Grandpa did in the 60's to build what we got now.

      June 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. chillwind

    People call others hero for the most mundane stuff these days, but in this case, the pilot is a REAL hero.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. barebakgal

    "whomever shall lose his life for my sake, shall save it"

    June 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carawaigh

      How about laying down his life for the sake of his passengers and crew? Would that not get you into any sane paradise, Jesus notwithstanding?

      June 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. K3Citizen

    I think this guy just beat Sully as the pilot of the decade.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
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