Los Angeles (US) Sep 17 (IANS): At least three people were killed and over 50 were injured when an airplane crashed among spectators at an air show in Nevada, US, Friday, media reports said.
The pilot was confirmed dead, reported Xinhua.
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. The grandstand holds 10,000 people, and there were 7,500 people in attendance.
A TV footage showed that the aircraft, an Unlimited P-51 Mustang racer, dubbed "Galloping Ghost," climbed vertically in the air and then suddenly dropped down at about 4.30 p.m. during the popular annual air show, leaving audiences rushing away and wreckage and bloods scattered all over.
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 stunts in movies, 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 cancelled for the weekend, local TV said.