Last Hindenburg survivor, 88, recalls: ‘The air was on fire’Published May 05, 2017 Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. – Thunderstorms and wind had delayed the Hindenburg’s arrival in New Jersey from Germany on May 6, 1937. The father of 8-year-old Werner Doehner headed to his cabin after using his movie camera to shoot some scenes of Lakehurst Naval Air Station from the airship’s dining room.


FILE – In this May 6, 1937 file photo, the German dirigible Hindenburg crashes to earth in flames after exploding at the U.S. Naval Station in Lakehurst, N.J. Only one person is left of the 62 passengers and crew who survived when the Hindenburg burst into flames 80 years ago Saturday, May 6, 2017. Werner Doehner was 8 years old when he boarded the zeppelin with his parents and older siblings after their vacation to Germany in 1937. The 88-year-old now living in Parachute, Colo., tells The Associated Press that the airship pitched as it tried to land in New Jersey and that “suddenly the air was on fire.” (AP Photo/Murray Becker, File) (1937 AP)

“We didn’t see him again,” recalled Doehner, now 88 and the only person left of the 62 passengers and crew who survived the fire that killed his father, sister and 34 other souls 80 years ago Saturday.

Doehner and his parents, older brother and sister were returning from a vacation in Germany and planned to travel on the 804-foot-long Hindenburg to Lakehurst, then fly to Newark and board a train in nearby New York City to take them home to Mexico City, where Doehner’s father was a pharmaceutical executive.

The children would have preferred the decks and public rooms of an ocean liner because space was tight on the airship, Doehner said in a rare telephone interview this week with The Associated Press from his home in Parachute, Colorado.

Their mother brought games to keep the children busy. They toured the control car and the catwalks inside the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg. They could see an ice field as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, he remembered.

As the Hindenburg arrived at its destination, flames began to flicker on top of the ship.
Hydrogen, exposed to air, fueled an inferno. The front section of the Hindenburg pitched up and the back section pitched down.

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