Eleventh victim confirmed killed in Reno air crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2011 7:04 PM
Eleventh victim confirmed killed in Reno air crash

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - An 11th person has been confirmed as killed in the crash of a World War Two-era plane at a Nevada air race last week, a lawyer for the family of the latest confirmed victim said on Tuesday.

Attorney Tony Busby said members of Craig Salerno's family were told on Monday night that Salerno was among those who died in Friday's crash.

Salerno, a father of two, had been attending the 48th Annual National Air Championship Races near Reno as a staff member of the Wings Over Houston air show.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm one of our Wings Over Houston Staff Members, Craig Salerno, lost his life during the incident at the National Championship Air Races at Reno," Wings over Houston said in a statement.

"Craig has been a tremendous supporter and long-time volunteer of the Airshow," Wings Over Houston said. "We extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Craig's family and friends during this difficult time."

Federal safety investigators are trying to determine what caused 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward to lose control of his fighter and slam into a box seat area in front of the grandstand.

Leeward, a Florida-based real estate developer who was well-known in air racing circles and had flown as a stunt pilot in movies, was among those killed.

A photograph snapped seconds before the crash appears to show a component of the plane's tail section falling off, and the National Transportation Safety Board has said that would be one aspect of the crash that will be investigated.

The accident took place a day before another vintage plane crashed in a fireball during an aerobatic demonstration at a West Virginia air show, killing the pilot. The two incidents have raised new questions about the safety of such events.

Including Salerno, a total of 30 people have been killed in the Reno Air Races since they began in 1964, though Reno Mayor Bob Cashell has said that this year marked the first spectator deaths.

Leeward had modified his vintage P-51 Mustang, which was built during World War Two and dubbed "The Galloping Ghost" after a nickname for Chicago Bears running back Red Grange, to make it faster.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)