At least three people were killed and 50 injured Friday when a plane crashed collection on the public during a popular annual exhibition in the State of Nevada (Western U.S.), although they feared the death toll could rise .
The accident occurred at 16h20 local (2300 GMT), and determined that the event was suspended for the rest of the week.
An amateur video of the accident in Reno (Nevada, west) captures the moment when the P-51 Mustang crashed almost vertically against a crowded grandstand.
“We have a total of 54 wounded,” said Mike Houghton, president of the Reno Championship Air, at a news conference.
At least 15 of them are in critical condition in hospital.
“I had the opportunity to visit the place, and it’s horrible,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told reporters.
The event organizers reported the death of the pilot Jimmy Leeward, a real estate agent 74 years flying in competitions, and not commercially, since 1975.
Leeward apparently lost control of the plane, said Houghton. This was a pilot “very experienced and well qualified” and “had all his medical records a day,” he said.
Witnesses said the aircraft crashed into the pit area and one of them explained that the pilot kept the death toll was higher when making a sudden maneuver.
“Virtually wiped the front of the pit area,” said Houghton, who avoided comment on how many people could have died. He noted that the number of wounded was 54.
“We are all devastated by this tragedy,” he said.
Leeward’s family expressed consternacón the fate of veteran pilot in his Facebook page: “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy of the air show today. Please pray Sum up to us now for all the families affected.
“It was a horrible thing to see,” he told CNN’s Ben Cissell, a witness told the channel he saw the plane maneuver before losing his position.
“I thought it was withdrawing from the race and doing some acrobatic stunts,” he said. Then “the plane was looking down into the stands and I’m sure you saw the stands and did his best to avoid them,” he said.
Television showed pictures of the ground filled with debris. You could see a wounded woman making an effort to walk, attended by rescue workers rushing to also help other people lying on the ground.
“It’s like a slaughter, it is as if they had thrown a bomb,” said Gerald Lent, quoted by local newspaper Reno Gazette-Journal. “There were people lying everywhere.”
“One guy was cut in half. There was blood everywhere. There were arms and legs. Someone said ‘Hey, there are other foot over there,'” the witness told the newspaper.
The local medical center said it was treating 23 of the wounded, and eleven of them were in satisfactory condition and twelve in critical condition.
Another hospital in Reno, Mary’s Regional Medical Center, reported on its side that had 25 patients, four of whom were in critical condition, six with serious injuries and 15 in good condition.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB for its acronym in English) immediately launched an investigation and would provide an update on the number of deaths, said Houghton.