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John Lust, 94; was last survivor of rigid airship fleet

BUTLER, N.J. -- John Lust, who apparently was the last surviving crew member from the Navy's disaster-prone rigid airship program of the 1920s and 1930s, has died.

Mr. Lust, who was 94, died Dec. 29.

"He was the last sky sailor," Carl Jablonski, president of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, told Asbury Park Press.

Mr. Lust enlisted in the Navy at 17, a few years after the 1925 crash of the rigid, blimp-like USS Shenandoah. Unlike the flexible blimps that fly over sporting events, the rigid airships had internal frames.

Despite that disaster over southern Ohio, which killed 14, Mr. Lust went to work running engines on the airships, first on the USS Los Angeles, then on the USS Akron, which was based in Lakehurst.

Mr. Lust was on leave recovering from injuries from a car accident when the Akron crashed into the sea off Long Beach Island on April 3, 1933. Seventy-three of the 76 men aboard died. Within two years, the Navy ended its rigid-hulled airship program. Two years later, a similar airship, the Hindenburg, burned at Lakehurst.

Jablonski said Friday that his organization has checked the records of every crew member from the Naval rigid-hulled airship program and confirmed that Mr. Lust was the last to die.

Mr. Lust went on to run a lumber supply company.

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