Friday, September 16, 2011

Chillin' Not a Good Thing in This Case Godspeed Jimmy Leeward

I'm in shock this afternoon. An awful tragedy befell the 48th annual Reno National Championship Air Races Friday afternoon, when veteran Reno Unlimited racer Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, FL lost control of his modified P51D Unlimited Class Racer #177 "Galloping Ghost" on Lap 3 of the Unlimited Gold Heat.

Reportedly, Leeward pulled up to gain altitude only to nose over and crash into Rows A and B of the VIP Box Seats which are on the Stead Field tarmac in front of the Main Grandstands' West End (nearest the pits for those who've been to the Reno Air Races)

The Galloping Ghost broke into pieces on impact sending debris into the crowd. Race Officials report a preliminary estimate of 75 injuries and 12 fatalities. Leeward was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses say the plane was shuddering as Leeward struggled to regain control. There was no fire, saving untold numbers of spectators.

RARA, the Reno Air Race Association has cancelled the remainder of this year's event. 

8:46 PM PDT Update
RARA held a press conference at around 7:40PM PDT featuring Race Officials and Nevada Governor Sandoval. NTSB has taken control of the crash scene, and will investigate as is their duty.

RARA's Mike Helton said that 54 injured were transported to Reno area hospitals. Three are dead. Leeward, and one male and one female spectators.

David Wilson, an Australian Aeronautic Engineer in the grandstands, captured the best video I've seen yet. All the video I've seen is SmartPhone Video.

The next presser will be Saturday afternoon.

Reno's Blood Bank has been swamped by donors. United Blood Services asks donors to please wait until Saturday to come and donate.

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