Transport: Waiting Room

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Before boarding the Zeppelin Hindenburg for Europe, passengers used to wait in a bare, high-ceilinged room at the Lakehurst, N. J. Naval Air Station. Fortnight ago when fire destroyed the Hindenburg at Lakehurst (TIME, May 17), this chamber became a temporary morgue and 26 corpses lay there for two days awaiting identification and burial. Last week a Federal board of three investigators* and a crowd of newshawks sat down in the same room hopefully awaiting some clue to the disaster's cause. At week's end they had not found it but they had listened to a mass of testimony of which two highlights were Commander Charles Emery Rosendahl, head of the Lakehurst base, and Werner Franz, the Hindenburg's twelve-year-old cabin boy.

On the stand, Commander Rosendahl woodenly reviewed the course of the disaster, confessed he was mystified by it. Afterward he unbent to reporters, uttered thoughts that must have rushed through many heads when the 803-ft. airship suddenly spouted flame:

"When I saw the first blaze I knew the ship was doomed and I also thought that there would immediately be an explosion which would flatten every building at the field and kill everybody looking on. I thought it was curtains for all of us."

Rumple-headed Werner Franz was caught by a sentry while trying to get away with a bit of metal from the wreck. Brought into the inquiry, he revealed one of the most amazing escapes of all. Cornered on a narrow catwalk when the gasbags all around him leapt into flame, young Franz jumped through the fabric, fell to earth so hard he was stunned. He would have burned to death as the blazing hulk settled upon him, but a ballast tank burst above him, drenching him with cold water which both revived him and extinguished his burning clothes. Unharmed, he groped his way to safety.

Other aftermaths of the disaster last week:

¶ Three members of the New York Police bomb squad declared after probing the wreck that they could find no evidence of sabotage.

¶ On a North German Lloyd-Hamburg-American pier in the Hudson River, 10,000 sober-faced Germans gathered for services over 28 flag-draped coffins while a U. S. Navy blimp circled overhead.

¶ Capt. Max Pruss of the Hindenburg was declared out of danger, but other crew members remained in a serious condition, and one more passenger died at the Paul Kimball Hospital at Lakewood, N. ]., bringing the death total to 36.

¶ A week after the fire officials chugged down New York Bay to meet the Europa, bringing sad-eyed Dr. Hugo Eckener to help the investigation. Saying little, the world's No. 1 airship expert poked about the twisted girders of his greatest zeppelin, talked to survivors, watched the newsreels for the first time, took an active part in the inquiry.

¶ Five years ago the Akron was approaching the mooring mast at Camp Kearney near San Diego, Calif, when a sudden updraft tossed her 1,000 ft. aloft with three members of the ground crew dangling from a line. Two presently fell to their deaths (TIME, May 23, 1932). With this spectacular incident in mind, all four newsreel cameramen at Lakehurst had turned their lenses on the Hindenburg's ground crew at the crucial moment, thus missed the first flare of flame. The investigators last week appealed for any amateur film which might shed new light.

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