Ed Driscoll

Shock Video: Airplane Crashes at Reno Air Races Today

Initial reports say approximately 12 dead, at least 30 injured. Here’s NBC’s report:

A plane crashed into a seating area Friday at the annual Reno air races on Friday, and officials told local media at least 30 people were seriously injured.

The accident happened just before 4:30 p.m. during the National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport, KTVN-TV reported.

Witnesses told KTVN that planes in the Unlimited race were ascending when one aircraft started to nose-dive and then crashed near a spectator stand in the southeast corner. KTVN said the aircraft was a World War II-era P-51.

An official described the scene to KRNV-TV as “a mass-casualty situation.”

Reno Nevada’s KTNV-TV says that nearly 40 were admitted to nearby Renown hospital. Breaking News Online adds:

The accident happened at around 4.30 p.m. local time when a P-51 Mustang known as the Galloping Ghost, being flown by Jimmy Leeward, crashed into a seating area during the air race. Local officials said there were multiple fatalities and critical injuries, but no specific numbers were immediately available.

“It’s just like a massacre. It’s like a bomb went off,” Dr. Gerald Lent, who witnessed the crash, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “There are people lying all over the runway. One guy was cut in half. There’s blood everywhere. There’s arms and legs.”

“Reno NBC affiliate reports 12 people died in plane crash in Reno,” Ann Nyberg of Connecticut’s WTNH-TV adds via Twitter.

Update (7:30 PM PDT): “3 Including Pilot Dead After Crash at Air Races,” Reno’s KTVN reports. I’m not sure if this is an early report, but most sources are now revising the fatality count downward from the NBC tweet above. In any case, the key news in this post is several paragraphs down — and not surprisingly, is being highlighted by Matt Drudge: the pilot was 80 years old:

Authorities say race pilot Jimmy Leeward has died after a crash at the Reno Air Races. This weekend’s races are also canceled.

Three people are confirmed dead, and another 21 people were admitted to Renown Regional Medical Center. The Associated Press reports 75 people were injured.

Northern Nevada Medical Center says they currently have 8 patients: 5 in serious, 3 in good condition.

The plane crashed in front of boxseat rows A & B.

Concerned family members should call 775.972.6663 and Air Race staff is working to locate and establish the status of all involved.

Witnesses say Leeward’s plane, the Galloping Ghost, was about 400-500 feet in the air when it nosedived and crashed at the Reno-Stead Airport around 4:30pm.

Our reporter Chris Ciarlo says the P51 Mustang was third in contention during the gold heat when the crash happened.

A memorial for the 80-year-old pilot will be held at the Galloping Ghost hangar at 1pm Saturday. He’d been a pilot since he was 14 years old.

More as it comes in.

Update: Now the pilot’s age is being listed at 74.

Update: from Michael van Poppel of Breaking News Online, this CNN iReport photo, which vividly shows the doomed P-51 just moments before impact.