Witnesses of the horrific plane crash at a Reno air show that killed nine recalled the moment they thought they were going to die as the vintage fighter plane hurtled towards them.
Jimmy Leeward, 74, and eight people died when his rebuilt 1940s-era aircraft P51 Mustang crashed at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada. 54 were injured
Kim Fonda recalls seeing the plane streak toward where she was seated at the grandstand, saying: ‘I closed my eyes and said, “I am going to die now”. I was literally preparing to die and then he jerked the plane away and it landed like 25 feet from us. I want his family to know he was a hero.
Mr Leeward was hailed as a hero after steering the doomed aircraft away from the aircraft and saving the lives of hundreds. It is thought he suffered a mechanical failure in the air.
Ben Cissell said the plane crashed about 100 feet from where he was seated.Meanwhile it has emerged that the Nevada airshow has drawn scorn over the years as critics assailed the event as a recipe for the kind of disaster that played out on Friday in front of thousands of people.
The crash has led to calls that officials consider ending the event, the only one of its kind in the United States.
‘I think an accident of this nature, it certainly threatens the future of the air races,’ said Doug Bodine, a pilot who has raced at Reno for the last six years. ‘Both the FAA and (Reno race) will suffer extensive and ongoing scrutiny, and I think they need to consider ending the air races as one of the options.’
Though this was the first time spectators had been killed since the races began 47 years ago in Reno, 20 pilots including Leeward have died in that time, race officials said. Three pilots died while racing in the 2007 competition and another was killed during a practice race the next year.
Past deaths have led to on-again-off-again calls for better safety at the races, but it kept growing into a major event in Reno.