|Germany's airship "Hindenburg" explodes in a ball of fire as it lands in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, killing at least 36 of passengers and crew. (file)
The explosion that destroyed the Hindenburg was caused by static electricity and a build up of hydrogen after the dirigible flew through a thunderstorm, according to a team of experts, the Daily Mail reported.
The accident on May 6, 1937 that killed 36 people took place as the huge airship was preparing to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey and prompted several theories as to the cause.
British aeronautical engineer Jem Stansfield and a team of researchers based in San Antonio, Texas, concluded that the airship ignited when the ground crew ran to take the landing ropes, effectively earthing the ship and causing a spark, the newspaper said on its website on Monday.
Stansfield and his team said the goal of their experiments, which are the subject of a British Channel 4 documentary to be aired on Thursday, was to rule out theories ranging from a planted bomb to explosive properties in the paint used on the Hindenburg, the Daily Mail reported.
The first of the great long-distance passenger dirigibles, the Graf Zeppelin, went into service in 1928. The 245-metre (800-foot) Hindenburg, only slightly smaller than the Titanic, followed in 1936.
The Zeppelin era was shortlived, however, after the Hindenburg crash, accompanied by a dramatic eyewitness radio account and photographs.