The death toll in Friday's air race crash in Reno has risen to nine, with dozens critically injured.
Onlookers praised the pilot, saying it appeared that Jimmy Leeward, 74, who was killed in the crash, had maneuvered his P-51 Mustang at the last moment to avoid crashing into a grandstand. But the damage was catastrophic nonetheless.
Kim Fonda said she also saw the plane streaking toward where she was seated in the grandstand.
"I closed my eyes and said, 'I am going to die now,'" Fonda said. "I was literally preparing to die and then he jerked the plane away and it landed like 25 feet from us. I want his family to know he was a hero."
Video of the crash, posted on YouTube, showed a plane plummeting from the sky, sending up clouds of dust and debris. Shocked spectators rose to their feet.
The New York Times has more on what, exactly, air-racing is. Answer: what it sounds like. Airplanes, circling at high speed, at close proximity to each other.
It was the last race of the day on Friday, a marquee event noted for its blistering speeds, skilled pilots and low altitudes, with the planes flying as low as 100 feet, often nearly touching the wingtips of other aircraft.
As federal investigators work privately on their investigation, speculation is public. A mechanic at the field in Reno told The Times that he and his colleagues had already begun mulling possible causes of the disaster. The mechanic said the group had "spent the hours after the crash speculating that Mr. Leeward might have suffered a failure of his trim tab, a critical part of the tail’s controls, possibly leading to a more catastrophic failure."
"If it flutters enough," he told The Times, "your flight controls can rip off."
The video is jarring. It's below.
Update: As if one tragedy wasn't enough, a WW-II era plane crashed Saturday at an air show in West Virginia, erupting into a ball of flame but apparently injuring no spectators on the ground, Reuters reported.
The plane was one of six T-28s flying in formation when it appeared to clip the ground and crash, eyewitnesses said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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