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September 16, 2011

URGENT Plane crashes near grandstand at Nevada air show

by Kurt Hildebrand

A Gardnerville Ranchos resident said he witnessed a fatal crash into the stands Friday afternoon at the National Championship Air Races.

Several casualties have been reported as a result of the crash involving one of the “unlimited” class aircraft, reportedly a P-51 Mustang. Jon Wehan said he was 40 feet away when he saw the aircraft shoot straight up into the sky.

“I thought it was a Mayday,” he said from the parking lot Friday afternoon. “But he was out of control. He flipped back down, and the prop was coming right down on top of us.”

Wehan said the aircraft shifted a little bit and then slammed into the stands.

“It hit the stands smack in the middle of all the boxes,” he said. “It just disintegrated. I was 40-60 feet away, and you could see the debris coming at you like a video game. I dove behind my friend’s seat.”

He said his friend had been walking up the stairs and looking up at the plane when it came down. Neither man was seriously hurt.

“When I looked up, all the boxes were gone and there were bodies everywhere,” he said.

He said he was holding up until they started seeing the carnage left from the crash.

“For literally 20-30 feet, there’s body parts all over the stands,” he said.

“There’s a hole in the ground where the plane hit.”

Wehan has lived in Carson Valley for 11 years, coming from Kirkwood. He said he’s attended the National Championship Air Races dozens of times.

Mike Draper, a spokesman for the air races, told The Associated Press that Jimmy Leeward was the pilot of the P-51 Mustang that crashed into the box seat area at the front of the grandstand about 4:30 p.m. He said he did not have any information on the number of injured.

The National Championship Air Races draws thousands of people every year in September to watch various military and civilian planes race.

via URGENT Plane crashes near grandstand at Nevada air show |


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