RENO —At least 30 people were seriously injured after a plane crashed into the crowd Friday at the Reno National Championship Air Races, officials said.
Tara Trovato, spokeswoman for the Reno National Championship Air Races, confirmed an aircraft crashed into the VIP box seats at the races. She said it did not go into the grandstands.
“It did crash and it did go into the box seats,” Trovato said. She could provide no additional details.
There were 30 serious and 30 intermediate injuries, according to Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez.
Mike Draper, a spokesman for the Reno air races, described the situation as a “mass casualty event.” Draper could not provide specific numbers but said emergency protocol is being followed.
He said the pilot of the crashed aircraft is Jimmy Leeward, piloting the Galloping Ghost, aP-51 Mustang. He could provide no information about the pilot’s condition.
The plane was entered in the Unlimited class, which includes World War II vintage aircraft.
Witnesses to the crash described a horrific scene, with multiple fatalities and body parts strewn across the tarmac at Reno-Stead Airport.
“It’s just like a massacre. It’s like a bomb went off,” said Gerald Lent of Reno, who witnessed the crash. “There are people lying all over the runway.”
The only thing the Korean War veteran could compare the scene to was combat.
“One guy was cut in half. There’s blood everywhere,” Lent said. “There’s arms and legs.”
Lent said the P-51 was racing when the aircraft pulled straight up, made a roll and “went right into the audience” in the VIP area.
Juan Echeverria, 37, of Sparks, said he was about 100 feet away when the World War II-era fighter went down.
“The guy lost control, shot straight up into the air and came down into the people,” Echeverria said. “It hit full force, full throttle.”
The plane did not explode but “just disintegrated into debris,” Echeverria said. “There’s a huge crater where it hit.”
Echeverria described a horrific scene.
“It’s shocking,” he said. “The scene is very gruesome.”
Another witness, Greg Erny, 57, said the plane disintegrated into the crowd of people.
“It was the most sickening thing I’ve ever seen just watching the plane, (for more: Official: Scores injured in Reno air race crash – USATODAY.com.
- Plane crashes into crowd at Reno air races (msnbc.msn.com)
- ‘Casualties’ in US air race crash (bbc.co.uk)