A World War II-era plane flown by an experienced Hollywood stunt pilot did a nose-dive and crashed in front of the main grandstand at the Reno Air show, Friday night. Racing officials described the crash as a “mass casualty situation.”
The plane, a P-51 Mustang nicknamed “Galloping Ghost” by its pilot Jimmy Leeward, crashed into the box seat area killing three and injured more than 50 people, as of Friday night.
Multiple spectators caught the horrific crash on video and posted it on YouTube.
Immediately after the crash you can hear a person over the loud speaker say “Okay folks, stay where you were…we got emergency crews.” The crash left debris and bloodied bodies scattered around the grandstand area.
As of 9:45 p.m. the Renown Regional Medical Center said on its website that the hospital received 27 patients: Twelve were listed in critical condition, meaning vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Eleven were listed as fair, and two died—a male and a female. Names of the deceased were not released. There were also two walk-ins, who were listed in fair condition.
“In preparation for this emergency, nursing was staffed to capacity providing ample resources,” the hospital said on its website. “At this time, patients received are either in surgery, waiting surgery or have been transferred to a room.”
The Reno Air Races released the following phone number for family members to call to find their loved ones: 775-972-6663 or 2-1-1.
At the air race, spectators looked on in horror as the plane was flying steadily through the air, then took a nose dive. Smoke billowed in the air as emergency services rushed to the scene.
“It absolutely disintegrated,” one spectator told the Associated Press. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Officials said it appeared that a mechanical failure was to blame for the crash. Several spectators interviewed after the crash said Leeward appeared to pull up so he wouldn’t crash into the bleachers full of air race fans.
Leeward, 74, a veteran pilot and real estate developer out of Florida, was confirmed dead by National Championship Air Races at 10:40 p.m.
He had been racing since the mid-’70s and “Galloping Ghost” had been racing since 1946.
Leeward’s family posted a message on his Facebook fan page saying, “Dear friends, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy at the air race today. Please join us in praying at this time for all the families affected.”
His page has over 3,000 “likes.”
National Championship Air Races said it “extends their deepest sympathies and condolences to all of the families involved in today’s tragic accident.
“The Air Races are truly one big family and our thoughts are with all of our aviation family members, immediate and extended. While we can’t confirm the number of casualties or fatalities, local hospitals and emergency response organizations are beginning to release this information.”
–With Associated Press