September 17, 2011- A seventy-four year pilot lost control of his P-51 Mustang airplane and crashed into the box seats at an air show in Reno, Nevada Friday afternoon. The death toll from the accident was at three with well over 50 people injured. Reports from emergency personnel were that at least 15 people were admitted to local hospitals in critical condition, 10 to 15 in serious condition and the rest in stable condition.
The pilot was identified as Jimmy Leeward and he was confirmed as one of the three deaths. The National Championship Air Races had been scheduled for Friday through Sunday but have been cancelled due to the large number of casualties and the area cordoned off for investigators.
Witnesses to the crash say it looked as though the pilot made a last second maneuver that may have saved hundreds of lives as the plane just missed hitting a large grandstand. Many are calling the pilot a hero saying they were ready to die as the plane was bearing down on them but at the last second, he was able to change the plane’s course.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board has been sent to the scene to investigate. The pilot emitted a mayday signal about one lap into the race before eventually crashing.
Hundreds of emergency personnel responded to the incident and many were crediting the quick response to the low number of dead from the accident.