Last surviving crew member of Hindenburg dies
Warner Franze was a 14-year-old cabin boy when the hydrogen-filled Zeppelin crashed in Lakehurst, N.J., on May 6, 1937, killing 35 people aboard
By: Frank Jordans The Associated Press, Published on Fri Aug 29 2014
BERLIN—Werner Franz, believed to be the last surviving crew member of the German airship Hindenburg that crashed 77 years ago, has died. He was 92.
Franz was a 14-year-old cabin boy when the hydrogen-filled Zeppelin caught fire and crashed in Lakehurst, N.J., on May 6, 1937, killing 35 of the 97 people on board and a U.S. navy crewman on the ground. The disaster was captured by waiting photographers, film crews and a radio broadcaster on the ground, making it one of history’s most iconic air accidents.
Luck and quick thinking meant Franz was able to jump out of the Hindenburg as it fell burning to the ground, said historian John Provan, a long-time friend.
“Werner survived the crash without a scratch on him,” Provan said.
Franz served as an aircraft technician in Germany during the Second World War and was a skating coach in later life. A German news report said he died of heart failure on Aug. 13 in Frankfurt.
Provan said Franz came to be on the Hindenburg by chance. “His older brother worked at a fancy hotel in Frankfurt where the passengers and the captain stayed overnight before the airship took off early in the morning,” he said. “One of the captains said they were looking for a cabin boy and (the brother) heard about it.”
Franz completed three journeys to South America and one to North America in the Hindenburg before the disaster.
The loss of the huge airship — 15 storeys high and as long as three football fields — was widely attributed to static electricity igniting leaking hydrogen.
“Werner was most fortunate because he was in the officers mess cleaning up,” said Provan. “Above him was a large tank of water that burst open and drenched him, which protected him a bit from the flames and the heat.”
Franz was able to jump out of a cloth supply hatch onto the ground below and made the wise decision to run into the wind.
“He didn’t make the mistake of going in the other direction or the flames would have caught him,” Provan said.
Three other survivors of the disaster are believed to be still alive today: two passengers and one ground crew.
Posted in The Toronto Star:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/ ... _dies.html