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75 years on, Hindenburg airship disaster still shocks

NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The zeppelin Hindenburg flies over Manhattan, April 1, 1936, a year before its fiery demise.

NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The Hindenburg dirigible attempting to land at Lakehurst, N.J. May 9, 1936, a year before the disaster.

On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg airship burst into flames while attempting to land in Lakehurst, N.J. Of the 97 people on board, 35 were killed, and one person on the ground died as well. According to the AP:

A look back at the historic airship and its demise.

The huge airship — more than three times longer than a Boeing 747 — was engulfed in flames and sank to the ground in less than a minute. Photographers and newsreel crews on hand for the landing captured the scene, and a shocked radio station broadcaster recorded the often replayed phrase “Oh, the humanity and all the passengers!”

The 804-foot-long Hindenburg was cutting-edge technology, with its fabric-covered, metal frame held aloft by more than 7 million cubic feet of lighter-than-air hydrogen. Flammable hydrogen had to be used because of a U.S. embargo on nonflammable helium.

It was “the Concorde of its day back in 1936 and ’37,” said Carl Jablonski, president of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society. But after the fire, he said, it would be called the “Titanic of the sky.”

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According to Asbury Park Press:

“The Hindenburg cut the time in half of the fastest ocean liner,” said Robert Buchanan of Waretown, the last known surviving member of the civilian landing crew that handled mooring lines for the airship.

“I find it hard to explain how horrible it was,” Buchanan told the audience. “The flames were entirely surrounding — you couldn’t see the sky, and you knew the ship was falling on you.”

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The Hindenburg in flames on its arrival at Lakehurst, New Jersey May 6, 1937.

The crash of the Hindenburg took only 34 seconds, but it changed lives forever as passengers and ground crew tried to escape its massive flames.