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At least 3 killed, 50 injured in plane crash at Nevada air race


15:12, September 17, 2011

Rescuers and debris are seen after a P-51 Mustang airplane crashed at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nev.. The plane plunged into the stands at the event in what an official described as a "mass casualty situation." (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- At least three people were killed and more than 50 others were injured when an airplane plunged into the grandstands at Reno Air Races in Nevada on Friday, local TV reported. The pilot was confirmed dead.

Mike Houghton, president and chief executive officer of the Reno Air Races, told a press conference after the crash that there were a total of 54 injuries, all have been transported to local hospitals to be treated. Houghton called the accident "a mass casualty situation."

Reno/Stead Airport was closed to all air traffic while the investigation was ongoing, local TV KRNV said. This is the first time there has been a crash with live spectators. The grandstand holds 10,000 people, and there were 7,500 people in attendance.

A TV footage showed that an Unlimited P 51 mustang, dubbed "Galloping Ghost," climbed vertically in the air and then suddenly dropped down at about 4:30 p.m. local time during the popular annual air show, leaving audiences rushing away and wreckage and bloods scattered.

Stephanie Kruse, spokeswoman for the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, said 25 people were critically injured and another 25 people were seriously injured in the crash, KRNV said. She added that the critically injured were considered to have life-threatening injuries.

The pilot was identified as 80-year-old Jimmy Leeward from Florida.

Houghon said that the plane was "flying on course" and Leeward appeared to have "lost control of the aircraft."

Leeward was a well-known air racing pilot. His website on Facebook showed that he started participating in air races in 1970s and he owned an air racing team and had flown over 120 races. Leeward had also been involved in numerous movie stunts, such as Amelia, Cloud Dancer, Tuskegee Airmen and others.

The National Championship Air Races, which began in the mid-1960s, draws thousands of people every year in September to watch various military and civilian planes race. Four pilots were killed in 2007 and 2008 air races. Air races have been canceled for the weekend, local TV said.


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