Horror as race plane nose-dives
The death toll from the crash of a Second World War fighter plane at a Nevada air race has reached nine.
The deaths included seven who were killed on the Reno tarmac, including the pilot, and two others who died at hospitals.
The new death toll was announced at a briefing with local and government investigators.
Investigators say they are examining the site, gathering information and are encouraged by the large number of photos and videos available to them. They have not speculated on a cause but organisers pointed to a possible mechanical failure.
Thousands watched in horror as the fighter plane, competing in an event described as a car race in the sky, suddenly pitched upwards, rolled and nose-dived towards the crowded grandstand.
The plane, flown by 74-year-old veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward, of Ocala, Florida, then slammed into the ground in front of VIP box seats and blew to pieces in front of the pilot's family and a tight-knit group of friends at the annual event. "It absolutely disintegrated," said Tim O'Brien of Grass Valley California, who attends the races every year. "I've never seen anything like that before."
More than 50 people were injured amid the horrific scene strewn with smoking debris.
Authorities said it appears a mechanical failure with the P-51 Mustang - a class of fighter plane that can fly in excess of 500 mph - was to blame. Some credit the pilot, Jimmy Leeward, with preventing the crash from being far more deadly. "If he hadn't pulled up, he would have taken out the entire bleacher section," said Tim Linville, 48, of Reno, who watched the race with his two daughters.
Meanwhile, another Second World War-era plane crashed and burst into flames on a runway at a West Virginia air show on Saturday. Officials reported no injuries among spectators at the airfield. Details on the pilot's condition were unavailable.
West Virginia Air National Guard spokesman Lt Nathan Mueller said the T-28 aircraft crashed while it performed during a routine at the Thunder over the Blue Ridge and Open House and Air Show.