Werner Doehner, Last Survivor of the Hindenburg Disaster, Dies at Age 90
by Brigit Katz/Smithsonian.com
On early May 1937, 8-year-old Werner G. Doehner and his family boarded the Hindenburg for a trans-Atlantic flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to New Jersey. As the zeppelin attempted to land at the Lakehurst Navy Air Base on the night of May 6, it burst into flames, killing 36 of the 97 people onboard. Doehner’s father and sister were among those who died in the accident—now considered one of the most notorious in aviation history—but the boy himself survived despite suffering severe burns to his face, arms and legs.
As Mariel Padilla reports for the New York Times, Doehner was, in fact, the last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster prior to his death at age 90 on November 8. According to Doehner’s son, Bernie, the cause of death was complications stemming from pneumonia.
The Hindenburg was an 800-foot long airship intended to be “a huge flying billboard for German aeronautical supremacy,” historian Rick Zitarosa of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society tells Padilla. Powered by highly flammable hydrogen gas, the zeppelin had made multiple successful North Atlantic crossings prior to the explosion, carrying more than 1,000 passengers on 10 scheduled trips between Germany and the United States.