Air Race Pilot Dies; At Least 2 Spectators Dead
Air Races Pres. Mike Houghton says 54 people total were hurt in Friday's accident. He also doesn't have a final count on the number of deaths.
Authorities did tell us 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward died in the Friday afternoon crash. Renown says two spectators also died.
The 'Galloping Ghost' crashed in front of boxseat rows A & B. Spectators were most likely hit by flying debris from the initial crash impact.
The WWII-era P51 Mustang was third in contention during the gold heat race when the crash happened. It was the last race of the day.
"He (Leeward) was only 74. Uh, all of his medical records and everything were up to date, spot-on, uh, and Jimmy was a very experienced and, uh, talented, qualified pilot," says Houghton.
Houghton says it's too early to know for sure what caused the wreck, but said there appeared to be a "problem with the aircraft that caused it to go out of control."
A total of 27 people were admitted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno - 12 in critical condition, 13 in fair and a man and woman died after leaving the Air Races.
Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center received 25 patients. Of those, 4 are listed in critical condition, 6 are in serious condition and 15 are in fair condition
And Northern Nevada Medical Center says they currently have three patients in good condition. Five patients were treated and released.
Houghton didn't have an exact number of spectators who attended Friday's event, but said during a live press conference that 'it was a good Friday.'
When asked if this will be the last year for the air races, Houghton said it's still too early to make that kind of decision. The races bring in about $85 million every year to the local economy.
Those wishing to check on the status of loved ones should call 775.337.5800 or locally dialing 211.
A memorial for the pilot will be held at the Galloping Ghost hangar at 1pm Saturday. He'd been a pilot since he was 14 years old.
Houghton said Leeward's family were at the races.
Governor Brian Sandoval attended Friday's press conference along with Washoe County Sheriff's deputies and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell. He thanked the many first responders who helped victims in the moments after the deadly crash.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. This has been a horrific accident. We also have to let Nevadans know; let the nation know about the quality of the emergency personnel that have been involved today. It was a -- a flawless reaction to what happened. The fire personnel; the air race personnel the law enforcement -- everybody from county and local level came together and did everything they -- they needed to do."
Sandoval urged community members to donate blood for victims starting tomorrow morning at United Blood Services.
UBS centers are located at:
1125 Terminal Way, Reno
4670 Sparks Boulevard, Sparks
256 E. Winnie Lane, Carson City
Saturday and Sunday/8am-5pm
O negative is the blood type most desired but all blood types are needed..
The Summit Christian Church at 7075 Pyramid Way in Sparks is also holding a blood drive this weekend Saturday: 4pm – 7:45 pm & Sunday: 8am – 1:30 pm. To sign up just go to http://unitedbloodservices.org/. They will also accept walk ins this weekend.
Airport personnel and military safely evacuated thousands of spectators in the moments after the show.
Leeward is the owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team and is a well-known racing pilot. His website says he has flown more than 120 races and served as a stunt pilot for numerous movies, including "Amelia" and "Cloud Dancer."
Leeward also is a real estate salesman.
Just yesterday, another pilot had to make a hard landing after his plane had engine problems and declared an emergency.
The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation and will be in charge of releasing further information on the crash and on the number of casualties.
The National Championship Air Races released this statement concerning Friday's deadly crash:
"The National Championship extends their deepest sympathies and condolences to all of the families involved in today's tragic accident. The Air Races are truly one big family and our thoughts are with all of our aviation family members, immediate and extended."
Sen. Harry Reid released this statement regarding the crash:
"I am deeply saddened at the news of this devastating accident. My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives and with those who were wounded in this horrific tragedy. I am so grateful to our first responders for their swift action and will continue to monitor this situation as it develops."
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of this horrific accident. I have directed my staff to provide whatever assistance they can," said Senator Dean Heller.
Congressman Mark Amodei released this statement:
"I am shocked and saddened by the news of the tragic plane crash at the Reno National Championship Air Races this afternoon, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I have been in regular contact and receiving updates from City of Reno officials. I will be in Reno tomorrow and hope to meet with emergency response personnel for a briefing and to offer any assistance I can provide."
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval released this statement:
"Northern Nevadans grieve again this evening with the news of causalities and injuries at the Reno Championship Air Races. My family and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, and I know every member of the Nevada family is thinking tonight of those we have lost and those we cherish.
"I want to thank local, state, and federal officials as well as the medical professionals in our hospitals for their response to this tragic event. They have once again demonstrated that training and compassion come together when Nevadans are most in need.
"I have assured Mayor Cashell and local law enforcement that all necessary state resources are at their disposal."
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley released the following statement:
"My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those who lost their lives in this heartbreaking tragedy in Reno. I commend all those on the scene who rushed to provide aid and thank our emergency and medical personnel who are now caring for the wounded."