The death toll in the vintage plane crash at the Air Race Show in Reno, Nevada, rose to nine on Saturday. The authorities said that the pilot and eight spectators were killed and several others injured, reported AP.
Thousands of spectators were videotaping the course of planes, before some heard an unusual engine noise from above. Seconds later, the P-51 Mustang, known as the Galloping Ghost, went upwards, spun and dived into the area where VIP box seats were located, to disintegrate into dust and debris thrown all over.
Jimmy Leeward, the 74-year-old pilot of the World War II ear plane, was a veteran racer and Hollywood stuntman.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials, after going through the raw video footages, found a small piece of the aircraft falling to the ground prior to the crash. Witnesses who looked at photos said it appeared to be a 'trim tab,' which helps pilots keep control of the aircraft, the AP report said.
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.
Officials said 54 people were transported to hospitals. While eight remained in critical condition as of midday Saturday, nine were in serious condition.
However, people familiar with air races say that the magnitude of disaster could have been worse had the plane crashed into a larger crowd of spectators.
This one could have been much worse if the plane had hit a few rows higher up, said Don Berliner, president of the Society of Air Racing Historians and a former Reno Air Races official. We could be talking hundreds of deaths.
This was for the first time in the 47 years history of the Reno air show that spectators were killed. Twenty pilots, including Leeward, have lost their lives during the show over the years, say authorities.