Plane crashes at Nevada air race

2011-09-17 08:21
Reno, Nevada - A vintage World War Two fighter plane crashed near the grandstand at a Nevada air race on Friday, killing at least two people, including the elderly pilot, and injuring more than 50 others, officials said.

At least 15 people were in critical condition after the crash at the Reno Air Races, which a spokesperson for the event called a "mass casualty situation" in a written statement.

The plane, a P-51 Mustang dubbed the "Galloping Ghost" that was being flown by pilot Jimmy Leeward, crashed into a box seat area in front of the main grandstand about 16:20 local time, said Mike Draper of the public relations firm R&R Partners, which represents the race.

Video apparently taken from the stands and posted on YouTube showed a plane plunging nose-down into the tarmac as spectators were heard gasping, "Oh, my God."

The head of the Reno Air Racing Association, Michael Houghton, put the number of injured at 54 and said the 74-year-old pilot was killed. He previously put the pilot's age at 80.

Stephanie Kruse, a spokesperson for the regional emergency medical service authority, said 15 of the injured were in critical condition
Renown Regional Medical Centre spokesperson Dan Davis said among 21 victims received at his facility, at least two were killed in the crash, a man and a woman. They were not identified and it was not clear if Leeward was one of them.

Mark Hasara of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, an Air Force veteran who witnessed the crash, told Reuters, "As soon as I saw his nose pointed at the ground, I knew he wasn't going to recover."

The Reno crash was the latest in a spate of fatal air show accidents since August.

Last month, the pilot of an aerobatic airplane died in a fiery crash in front of shocked onlookers at a weekend air show in Kansas City, Missouri. In Michigan last month, a wingwalker at an air show near Detroit plunged about 60 metres to his death as he tried to climb onto a helicopter in midair.

The Reno Air Races, which began in the mid-1960s, features planes facing races at an airfield north of the city.

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