NTSB Officials Return to Air Races Crash Site

By: Denise Wong Email
By: Denise Wong Email

RENO, NV - Reno police confirmed that 9 people were killed in the incident. Seven victims, including pilot Jimmy Leeward, died on the tarmac when his P-51 Mustang crashed. Two others died at the hospital. And this evening, it was revealed that 69 people were actually treated for injuries due to the crash. Eight remain hospitalized in critical condition.

A team of National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived at the crash site at the Reno-Stead Airport on Saturday morning, around 8:30. They toured the site and walked among the wreckage. They collected a lot of debris, including parts of the crashed aircraft's tail. They also recovered parts of the control system. They plan to continue to collect and identify more items on Sunday, so they can send some materials to the NTSB research lab in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

Mark Rosekind, an NTSB board member, said it could take officials six to nine months to complete the investigation into the crash.

"It's pretty clear that at low altitude and high speed, the aircraft went nose up, climbed briefly and then nose over quickly, that's why it impacted," says Rosekind, of what happened in the moments just before the plane crashed.

"This is just the beginning of this accident investigation," he stressed.

This is a tragedy and we're very very sorry," says Reno Mayor Bob Cashell.

Investigators are zooming in on photographs of what appears to show the plane before it crashed - and it looks like a piece has come loose from the aircraft's tail.

"We're aware of that and in fact a component has been recovered in the area of where that was observed, but I think it's critical at this point to know that we have not identified the component. It will be examined so we don't even know what the component is or if it even came from this particular aircraft," says Rosekind.

Mayor Cashell says he is concerned about the future of the Reno National Championship Air Races.

"We've run it for 40 years with no problems and I want to see that we can't bring it back. I want to keep it. But I want to see that the safety's there," he says.

The City of Reno has set up a family assistance center for relatives of victims of the crash at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Reno. Officials say it will stay open for as long as it is needed. Deputy Armando Avina with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office also says that local, state, and federal officials are working together to organize a candlelight vigil for victims of the crash. At this point, a day and time has not yet been set.


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