LAS VEGAS (AP) - The family of a Texas man killed when a racing
aircraft crashed into spectators in the National Championship Air
Races in Reno filed a $25 million lawsuit Tuesday against the
pilot's family, a mechanic on the World War II-era aircraft and the
organization that hosted the event.
The lawsuit filed in Collin County, Texas, is believed to be the
first stemming from the Sept. 16 crash of pilot Jimmy Leeward's
P-51D Mustang during the air races at Reno-Stead Airport. Eleven
people died, including Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla. At least 74 were
"There are two groups of wrongdoers," said Houston-based
attorney Tony Buzbee, who filed the civil liability lawsuit on
behalf of Dr. Sezen Altug, a physician and widow of dead spectator
Craig Salerno, and their two children, ages 6 and 8. "Those who
pushed the limits of physics on the plane, being risk takers and
reckless without regard for the people who might be watching them,
and those who promoted and profited from hosting the show."
Leeward's son, Kent Leeward, declined comment on the lawsuit,
which also names Texas-based mechanic Richard Shanholtzer Jr., the Reno Air Racing Association, Leeward Racing Inc. and family
corporations in Florida , and Aeroacoustics Inc., an aircraft parts
maker in Washington state.
Reno Air Racing Association chief executive Michael Houghton
said he hadn't seen the lawsuit but offered "condolences to the
families and fans that are affected by this devastating tragedy."
"We fully expect a number of lawsuits to be filed," Houghton
told The Associated Press. "This is the first."
Shanholtzer and an Aeroacoustics official did not immediately
respond to messages.
Salerno, 50, of Friendswood, Texas, was a dispatcher for
Continental Airlines and a lieutenant for a volunteer fire
department at home. He also volunteered at an annual Houston air
show and was an avid racing pilot. He attended the races with a
friend who was hospitalized with critical injuries after the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators are probing
the crash. A board member has said they were focusing on a piece
that apparently fell off the tail of Leeward's plane, dubbed "The
Galloping Ghost," as it went out of control.
Photos showed a tail part known as an elevator trim tab missing
as the plane climbed sharply, then rolled and plunged nose-first at
more than 400 mph into box seats on the tarmac in front of the
center of the grandstands. Dead and injured people were scattered
widely, but there was no fire.
Leeward was a veteran movie stunt pilot and air racer who
competed at the Reno air races since 1975.