Benign goitres have the potential to reach massive sizes if neglected, but most have a protracted course that may or may not present with compressive symptoms. We report the case of a 57-year-old man who presented with a rapidly enlarging nodular goitre resulting in acute respiratory failure. Endotracheal intubation and emergency total thyroidectomy were performed, revealing massive thyroid nodules with minimal intrathoracic extension and tracheal erosion. Despite a course and clinical findings suggestive of malignant disease, histopathology was consistent with a benign multinodular goitre. Several cases of benign goitres necessitating endotracheal intubation have been reported. Airway compromise was attributed to a significant intrathoracic component, or inciting events such as thyroid haemorrhage, pregnancy, radioiodine uptake or major surgery. Obstructive symptoms may not correlate well with objective measures of upper airway obstruction such as radiographs or flow volume loops.