Airship pilot Michael Nerandzic died to save his passengers in an act that earned one of 78 Australian Bravery Awards.
At the controls of a blazing and doomed airship, Australian pilot Michael Nerandzic’s mind turned to his passengers.
A long way from his NSW south coast home, the 51-year old was preparing to land at an airfield in west Germany in June 2011 when trouble struck and fuel caught fire at the rear of the Goodyear blimp.
Lowering the craft just enough for his three passengers to jump clear, the shift in weight sent the airship rapidly skyward and Mr Nerandzic to a fiery death.
Described as a people person and ultimate professional, Mr Nerandzic’s wife Lyndy said he would have known what was ahead after the passengers jumped.
“He knew exactly what he was doing that day,” she said.
For his selflessness, Mr Nerandzic will posthumously receive the Star of Courage.
“It’s nice that his sacrifice has been recognised and that he hasn’t just died and disappeared,” Mrs Nerandzic said of the star.
It is one of 78 Australian Bravery Awards announced by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on Monday.
Among the recipients is 87-year-old Kathleen Cochrane, who six years ago went to the aid of her screaming elderly Coffs Harbour neighbour.
She found the 82-year-old woman being held down by the throat and punched repeatedly in the face by an intruder.
Mrs Cochrane intervened and distracted the assailant, who fled, and waited with the victim until emergency crews arrived.
“My children hit the roof when they found out but … it’s what anybody else would have done,” she told AAP of her actions.
Along with 43 others around Australia, Mrs Cochrane will receive a commendation for brave conduct.
There will be 22 Bravery Medals awarded including to men in the ACT and Queensland who stepped in to save lives during floods in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
Canberra man Shane Allen entered a fast-flowing stormwater drain to rescue a screaming 13-year-old boy being swept away after heavy rains.
Queenslander Trevor Davis sprang into action after seeing a car swept off a road by a swollen creek near Gympie.
Mr Davis reached the submerged vehicle, forced open the door and pulled free the unconscious driver before taking him to shore.
Eleven group bravery citations will go to teams including the Marysville Country Fire Authority for its efforts in Victoria’s February 2009 bushfires.
A nod also goes to paramedics and explosive experts who worked to free trapped miners from Tasmania’s Beaconsfield mine in 2006.
Sir Peter expressed admiration for the award recipients.
“We are fortunate as a community and as a nation to benefit from your contribution,” he said in a statement.