Tail part 'fell off crash plane'
The death toll from an air race crash in Reno, Nevada, rose to nine as investigators said the 1940s plane appeared to lose a piece of its tail before slamming into a crowded tarmac.
Moments before Friday's tragedy, thousands had watched the planes speed by just a few hundred feet off the ground before some noticed a strange gurgling engine noise from above.
Seconds later, the P-51 Mustang dubbed the Galloping Ghost pitched oddly upwards, twirled and took an immediate nosedive into a section of VIP box seats.
The plane, flown by 74-year-old veteran racer and Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward, disintegrated in a ball of dust, debris and bodies amid screams of "Oh my God!" from the crowd.
National Transportation Safety Board officials were on the scene on Saturday to determine what caused Mr Leeward, who died in the crash, to lose control and were looking at amateur video clips that appeared to show a small piece of the aircraft falling to the ground before the accident.
Witnesses who looked at photos of the part said it appeared to be a "trim tab", which helps pilots keep control of the aircraft.
Reno police also provided a GPS mapping system to help investigators recreate the crash scene.
"Pictures and video appear to show a piece of the plane was coming off," NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind said. "A component has been recovered. We have not identified the component or if it even came from the airplane ... We are going to focus on that."
The dead so far include Mr Leeward and eight spectators. Officials said 54 people were taken to hospital, but more came in on their own. Eight remained in a critical condition last night and nine were in a serious condition.
Despite the large number of dead and injured, witnesses and people familiar with the race say the toll could have been much worse had the plane gone down in the larger crowd area of the stands. The plane crashed in a section of box seats in front of the grandstand area where most people sat.