On this day, 86 years ago, the world was shocked when a German airship approaching Lakehurst, New Jersey, went up in flames and crashed to the ground killing 36 people.
The airship, named the Hindenburg was one of the largest and most luxurious ever built. The exact cause of the disaster has never been conclusively determined, but it is widely believed to have been caused by a spark that ignited the hydrogen gas used to power the airship.
Of the 97 passengers and crew on board, 62 survived. The disaster’s 36 deaths included 13 passengers, 22 crewmembers and one worker on the ground.
The tragedy was captured on film and in photographs and became a defining moment in the history of air travel. Famously in the video footage, American radio journalist Herbert Oglevee Morrison can be heard reporting on the impending crash before he utters the phrase, “Oh the humanity,” as the airship approaches the ground.
The Hindenburg disaster also marked the beginning of the end of the era of airship travel, as public confidence in the safety of these vehicles was severely shaken.