Memorial service set for victims of Reno air crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2011 3:08 PM
Memorial service set for victims of Reno air crash

RENO, Nev (Reuters) - The city of Reno has scheduled a memorial service for the victims of a plane crash at a Nevada air race last week that killed 10 people and injured more than 50 others, officials said on Tuesday.

The service will be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Idlewild Park in Reno, where the city will plant a tree for the victims.

Four people remain in critical condition at two hospitals following the Friday afternoon crash at the 48th Annual National Air Championship Races and four others are listed in serious condition.

Federal safety investigators are trying to determine what caused 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward to lose control of his World War Two-era fighter and slam into a box seat area in front of the grandstand, leaving a three-foot-deep crater in the tarmac.

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.

A total of 29 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.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)