Werner Gustav Doehner, the last remaining survivor of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster – passed away in Laconia, New Hampshire last Friday at the age of 90
The last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster has died at the age of 90.
Werner Gustav Doehner passed away in Laconia, New Hampshire last Friday, more than eight decades after the German airship caught fire and was destroyed while docking in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937.
The disaster left 35 people dead, including Doehner’s father and sister.
62 passengers and crew managed to survive the blaze, which became one of the most infamous air disasters of all time, after it was captured by news crews who were on the scene to document its arrival.
Doehner, who was just eight years old at the time of the crash, was on the 804-foot-long zeppelin with his parents and older brother and sister.
‘He did not talk about it,’ his son Bernie Doehner told The Associated Press on Friday, adding that his father took him to visit the naval station years later, but not the Hindenburg memorial, itself.
At the time of its completion in 1936, the LZ 129 Hindenburg was the largest aircraft ever built, and was the pride of Germany’s Third Reich.
The airship completed several trips across the Atlantic prior to the 1937 disaster. At the time of the fire in New Jersey, the Hindenburg had traveled from Frankfurt. There were plans for the airship to then head down to South America.
The Hindenburg disaster became one of the most infamous air tragedies of all time, after it was captured by news crews who were on the scene to document its arrival in New Jersey
The LZ 129 Hindenburg was the largest aircraft ever built, and was the pride of Germany’s Third Reich. It is pictured flying over New York before its ill-fated docking a short time later in New Jersey
‘It was definitely a repressed memory. He lost his sister, he lost his dad.’
Back in 2017, Doehner gave a rare interview with the Associated Press, recalling the moment flames began to flicker on top of the air ship as hydrogen, exposed to air, fueled an inferno.
‘Suddenly, the air was on fire,’ Doehner recalled.
‘We were close to a window, and my mother took my brother and threw him out. She grabbed me and fell back and then threw me out,’ he said.
‘She tried to get my sister, but she was too heavy, and my mother decided to get out by the time the zeppelin was nearly on the ground.’
Werner Doehner is pictured with his older brother Walter and mother Irene on board the Hindenburg before the disaster. All three survived the crash
The airship is pictured exploding into flames on May 6, 1937. The iconic image was beamed around the world and eventually became used on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled album
Doehner added: ‘I remember lying on the ground, and my brother told me to get up and to get out of there,’ he recalled. Their mother joined them and asked a steward to get her daughter, whom he carried out of the burning wreckage.
He would remain in the hospital for three months before going to another facility in New York City in August for skin grafts.
The U.S. Commerce Department determined the accident was caused by a leak of the hydrogen that kept the airship aloft. It mixed with air, causing a fire.
‘The theory that a brush discharge ignited such mixture appears most probable,’ the department’s report said.
Doehner and his family – who were German citizens – were on their way back to Mexico City, where his father was a pharmaceutical executive. Werner is pictured (front) with his older brother Walter. The pair both survived the crash that killed their father and sister.
Doehner and his family – who were German citizens – were on their way back to Mexico City, where his father was a pharmaceutical executive. Funerals were held for his father and sister there.
Doehner was born in Darmstadt, Germany, and grew up in Mexico City. In 1984, he moved to the United States to work for General Electric as an electrical engineer, according to his obituary. He also worked in Ecuador and Mexico. He retired from New England Electric System in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1999.
He moved to Parachute, Colorado, in 2001. He and his wife of 52 years, Elin, moved to Laconia in May 2018.
A survivor is treated for burns following the disaster on May 6, 1937
Onlookers, who had initially assembled to watch the Hindenburg dock in New Jersey, were left stunned when the the airship burst into flames