The wife of a Wollongong blimp pilot, who died saving three airship passengers in Germany, has said her husband was "larger than life" and "a character".Speaking to the Mercury today, Lyndy Nerandzic said she was not surprised to hear of husband Michael's heroic actions in the last minutes of his life."When they told me what he had done for the passengers, it didn't surprise me one little bit," she said."He was a character. He was larger than life. He was so, so generous."AFP reports Mr Nerandzic, 52, died when his aircraft, a Goodyear blimp, exploded and plummeted to earth in a fiery crash after he had taken his three passengers down to safety.
The blimp crash was captured on amateur video
He has been hailed for his bravery in steering the passengers to safety moments before the airship crashed.
The accident happened at the Reichelsheim aerodrome, near Friedberg in central Germany on Sunday, local time, as the blimp was coming in to land.There is some confusion over the chain of events that led to the crash, with Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper reporting that Mr Nerandzic, on learning the ship was on fire, lowered the blimp so his passengers could jump to safety.This reduced the aircraft's weight causing it to shoot upwards where it exploded in a fireball before crashing to earth.Bild magazine's website said the blimp struck trouble and, as the pilot brought the craft down to two metres from the ground, he told his passengers to jump.Once the three jumped clear, the airship rose quickly to 40 metres then caught fire for reasons not yet clear, said police.Witnesses reported hearing a loud noise from the engine and smelling petrol fumes.The journalists who escaped were the Bild photographer, and two from RTL television.The airship had been making a promotional flight to mark a local festival.A contributor to the airships.net blog site said Mr Nerandzic was highly respected by other pilots."He was simply one of the best airship pilots in the world. Anyone in the industry will tell you that," the blogger said."Mike showed great bravery when the incident occurred and saved the lives of the three passengers."
Mike Nerandzic flying over Wollongong in 1996 in the Whitmans Airship.Mr Nerandzic, who was married but had no children, commenced a Flying Training and Aeronautical Engineering degree at the University of NSW in 1977 before becoming a flight instructor and later pilot for the now-defunct Hazelton Airlines.He was just a day short of his 53rd birthday, held pilot's licences in five countries and had logged more than 12,300 hours at the controls of various airships.His wife was due to join him in Europe next month.He wrote on his personal website that he had flown airships in more than 23 countries, including flights over five Olympic games including the 2000 Sydney games.He had documented many of his flights on his Flickr photo page.A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman confirmed that a NSW man had been killed but could provide no further details.
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