Reno, NV Air Race Disaster, Sep 2011
DEATH TOLL RISES IN NEVADA AIR RACE CRASH; CLOSE TO 70 INJURED.
Reno, Nevada (CNN) - The number of people killed when a pilot lost control of his vintage plane and crashed into spectators during an air race over Reno, Nevada, rose to nine Saturday.
Seven people died on the tarmac, including the pilot, and two more died in hospitals, Reno police said. Officials had previously put the death toll at three. Close to 70 people were injured in the incident, which occurred Friday.
NTSB member Mark Rosekind said investigators are looking at whether the plane's apparently damaged elevator trim tab - whose breaking apart was captured in a photograph - played a role in the nosedive crash. Authorities do not know why the aircraft went down.
"We're aware of that, and in fact, a component has been recovered in the area where it was observed, but it's critical at this point to note that we have not identified this component," Rosekind told reporters. "It will be examined, so we don't know what the component
is and whether it came from this particular aircraft."
He said later that investigators had identified and recovered portions of the accident aircraft tail.
A full investigation could take six to nine months, Rosekind said.
Investigators will be poring over a trove of spectators' videos and photos, he said.
"It seems that were a tremendous number of cameras and video that was captured," he said. "On the one hand, it's an excellent source of information, but on the other hand, there's not a lot of other specific components from the wreckage that at this point we can identify."
At the time of the crash, three NTSB investigators happened to be at the air show - a common practice - and one of them has been appointed investigator in charge, Rosekind said.
The board will look at safety oversight and the placement of the grandstands for the air race, Rosekind said.
Investigators are also looking into whether the plane had a black box, Rosekind said, though at this point he does not believe it had a recording device.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell told reporters that the air race spectator fatalities were the first in four decades. The Reno Air race Association was founded in 1964, according to its Facebook page.
"This is the first time in 40 years, I think, that we've had a visitor injured or killed," Cashell said Saturday. "We've lost some pilots, but we've never had a major catastrophe."
When asked if the high-speed air race was held too close to public viewers, Cashell responded, "I'm not an expert on that. It's going to be up to the airport authority and it's going to be up to the air race board, and it's going to be up to these guys," referring to the NTSB investigators.