POSTED: Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 12:45pm
UPDATED: Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 4:37pm
NBC NEWS — THIS IS AN NBC33 NEWS UPDATE: The total number of dead is confirmed as 9, not five as originally reported by NBC National News.
ORIGINAL STORY: Yesterday, in front of thousands, a vintage World War II fighter plunged from the sky into the main grandstand packed with people.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is headed to Reno, Nevada this morning to investigate this tragedy that killed the pilot and at least four other people on the ground and sent more than 50 others to hospitals.
The moment of the crash was captured on video. The camera picks up other planes racing by the stands at low altitude and then one aircraft plunges into the ground near the end of the stands.
Organizers of the Reno Air Race called it a “mass casualty situation” as the aircraft showered debris on the crowd.
In the chaotic aftermath of the crash, emergency responders summoned every ambulance they could find to rush the injured to hospitals
The plane in question is a restored vintage P-51 Mustang known as the "Galloping Ghost." It's unknown at this time what caused the accident.
The pilot was long-time air racer Jimmy Leeward, who was 74 years old. In an interview Thursday morning, he sounded confident about getting through the preliminary heats of the race and into the finals.
What happened was horrendous. It's unknown whether Leeward was trying to take evasive action to avoid the crowd.