The pilot of a Goodyear blimp died in Germany on Sunday when his airship caught fire while landing. Before he died, the heroic pilot was able to save three passengers by ordering them to jump.
One passenger told Germany's Bild newspaper that pilot Michael Nerandzic, 53, began having trouble as he was coming in to land at Reichelsheim, near Frankfurt, and the blimp emitting fuel fumes. The pilot ordered three passengers to leap from about six feet off the ground, and the airship immediately climbed about 150 feet due to the reduction in weight. The blimp was engulfed in the air, killing the pilot.
Above is an undated file photo of Nerandzic, the heroic pilot, taken at the controls of the blimp, named "Spirit of Safety," that would eventually kill him. We've also included this gallery of photos taken of the crash site in the aftermath of this deadly event. You can see just how little material these behemoths actually use to stay afloat.
Goodyear said today that the blimp was one of two leased by the company from Lightship Europe Ltd. for marketing purposes in Europe. The second airship has been grounded until further notice. These are not the same blimps flown by Goodyear in the United States, which are due to be retired in 2013.
Lastly, here is a report from German news outlet Bild.de on the crash. (Hat tip to Jeff!)