Moments earlier, thousands had arched their necks skyward and watched the planes speed by just a few hundred feet off the ground before some noticed a strange gurgling engine noise from above. Seconds later, the P-51 Mustang dubbed The Galloping Ghost pitched oddly upward, twirled and took an immediate nosedive into a section of white VIP box seats.
The plane, flown by a 74-year-old veteran racer and Hollywood stunt pilot, disintegrated in a ball of dust, debris and bodies as screams of "Oh my God!" spread through the crowd.
National Transportation Safety Board officials were on the scene Saturday to determine what caused Jimmy Leeward to lose control of the plane, and they were looking at amateur video clips that appeared to show a small piece of the aircraft falling to the ground before the crash. Witnesses who looked at photos of the part said it appeared to be an "elevator trim tab," which helps pilots keep control of the aircraft.Reno police also provided a GPS mapping system to help investigators recreate the crash scene.
"Pictures and video appear to show a piece of the plane was coming off," NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind said at a news conference. "A component has been recovered. We have not identified the component or if it even came from the airplane ... We are going to focus on that."
Investigators said they also recovered part of the tail section, where the tab is located.
A tour near the site offered to journalists Saturday evening revealed debris spread in a fan-shape over more than an acre around a crater roughly 3 feet deep and as much as 8 feet across. Based on the crater's location, it appears the P-51 Mustang went straight down in the first few rows of VIP box seats, or about 65 feet in front of the leading edge of the grandstand.
Yellow crime tape surrounded the scene and spectator seats remained askew.
Among the dead were the pilot and eight spectators. Officials said 69 people were treated at hospitals, including 36 who have been released and 31 who remain there. Nine were in critical condition late Saturday.
One of the victims was identified Saturday as 22-year-old Michael Wogan of Phoenix, who was in a wheelchair the VIP section when the plane crashed, the Arizona Republic reported. Wogan, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, was killed and his father, Bill, lost an eye and some fingers and sustained serious facial injuries, the Wogan family told the newspaper.
Doctors who treated the injured said it was among the most severe situations they had ever seen because of the large number of people, including at least two children younger than 18 who are not among those in critical condition.Injuries included major head injuries, facial trauma and limb injuries, including amputations,More...