The airship Hindenburg bursts into flames

EDITOR’S NOTE: On May 6, 1937, the German airship Hindenburg burst into flames at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Thirty-five people aboard and one person on the ground died. Ahead of Saturday’s 80th anniversary, the AP is republishing a version of its original coverage.

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LAKEHURST, N.J. (AP) — Its silvery bulk shattered by a terrific explosion, the German air liner Hindenburg plunged in flames at the United States Naval air station tonight, with indications that 34 of the 100 aboard and one spectator perished.

As minor explosions continued to tear its twisted aluminum skeleton and ribboned fabric for hours afterward, an official announcement listed as having survived 24 of 39 passengers aboard and 42 out of the 61 members of the crew, thus leaving a total of 34 unaccounted for. Twenty-four bodies were counted in two places, thirteen at the naval sick bay and eleven in the great hangar itself.

Timothy W. Margerum of Lakewood said there were more corpses in the naval station’s garage which had been hurriedly transformed into a morgue. Many of the dead were horribly burned by the oil fed flames. Margerum reported others were dying. Hospitals for miles around were filled with the injured.

The navy department in Washington said it was advised at least 48 persons were killed.

An explosion of the No. 2 gas cell toward the stern of the ship was named as the cause of the disaster by State Aviation Commissioner Gill Robb Wilson, who called the blast “strange.” The highly inflammable hydrogen gas billowed into fierce flame as the explosion plummeted the ship to the air field.

Ground spectators said crew members in the stern of the ship “never had a chance” to escape.

The disaster struck without the least warning. The ship had angled its blunt nose toward the mooring mast, the spider-like landing lines had been snaked down and the ground crew had grasped the ropes from the nose, when the explosion roared out, scattering ground crew and spectators like frightened…

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