Air show death toll rises to 9 Eds: Raises death toll
At least nine people died and dozens were injured when a World War II-era plane crashed into a crowd of spectators at an air show in the US state of Nevada, media reported Saturday.
Six spectators and the pilot died in the accident on Friday, according the Reno Police Department. Two more spectators among 54 people transported to local hospitals died later, dpa reported.
Deputy Police Chief Dave Evans said that 17 people remained hospitalized Saturday.
The P51 Mustang, called the "Galloping Ghost," was flown by well-known stunt pilot and racing veteran Jimmy Leeward, who died on impact.
Witnesses said the pilot appeared to be trying to steer the plane away from the crowds shortly before crashing into the ground in front of a grandstand filled with spectators at the Reno National Championship Air Races, sending debris hurtling into the crowd.
Mike Houghton, Reno Air Racing Association chief, said that the crash appeared to have been caused by mechanical failure.
Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board leading the accident investigation on the scene, said Saturday that the plane was "very unlikely" to have been equipped with voice and data recorders, so-called black boxes.
The focus now is on gathering factual information," he said.
Photos and video of the plane in the air before the crash showed a possible piece missing from the tail. Rosekind said that a part has been found on the ground, but investigators need to confirm if it is even from the P51 Mustang, while collecting photo and video evidence from witnesses.
"We are very clearly going to focus on that," he said.
The pilot was considered extremely experienced. He had been taking part in flying competitions since the mid-1970s, according to his Facebook page. He had also performed as a stuntman in several films, according to movie database IMDb.com.