RENO, Nevada— A vintage World War II-era fighter plane plunged into the grandstands Friday during a popular annual air show, killing at least three people, injuring more than 50 spectators and creating a horrific scene strewn with body parts and smoking debris. Here is the AP report:
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, but an official with the event said there were indications that mechanical problems were at play.
The plane, flown by a renowned 74-year-old air racer and movie stunt pilot, spiraled suddenly out of control and appeared to disintegrate upon impact. Bloodied bodies were spread across the area as people tended to the victims and ambulances rushed to the scene.
Maureen Higgins of Alabama, who has been coming to the show for 16 years, said the pilot was on his third lap when he lost control.
She was sitting about 30 yards away from the crash and watched in horror as the man in front of her started bleeding after a piece of debris hit him in the head.
“I saw body parts and gore like you wouldn’t believe it. I’m talking an arm, a leg,” Higgins said “The alive people were missing body parts. I am not kidding you. It was gore. Unbelievable gore.”
Among the dead was pilot Jimmy Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., a veteran airman and stunt pilot who named his P-51 Mustang fighter plane the “Galloping Ghost,” according to Mike Houghton, president and CEO of Reno Air Races. Officials earlier said Leeward was 80.
Renown Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Kathy Carter confirmed that two others died, but did not provide their identities.
Stephanie Kruse, a spokeswoman for the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, told The Associated Press that emergency crews took a total of 56 injury victims to three hospitals. She said they also observed a number of people being transported by private vehicle, which they are not including in their count.
Kruse said of the total 56, at the time of transport, 15 were considered in critical condition, 13 were serious condition with potentially life-threatening injuries and 28 were non-serious or non-life threatening.
“This is a very large incident, probably one of the largest this community has seen in decades,” Kruse told The Associated Press. “The community is pulling together to try to deal with the scope of it. The hospitals have certainly geared up and staffed up to deal with it.”