|This World War II-era fighter plane plunged into the grandstands during an air show on Sept. 16 in Reno. (Garret Woodman/Associated Press)|
LAS VEGAS - Federal investigators are looking at evidence that something fell off a modified World War II-era racing aircraft as it climbed, rolled, and crashed nose first into spectators, killing 11 during air races in Reno last week, according to a preliminary report released yesterday.
The one-week National Transportation Safety Board summary of evidence collected after the Sept. 16 crash at Reno-Stead Airport puts the number of injured at 74 - 66 of them seriously.
The report made no conclusions and noted that investigators are trying to extract clues from an onboard data box and camera equipment believed to be from the plane.
A final report with findings could take more than a year.
Pilot Jimmy Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., was among the 11 people killed in the crash during the National Championship Air Races.
Leeward was a veteran movie stunt pilot and air racer who spoke earlier about modifications he made to squeeze more speed from his P-51 Mustang fighter plane in a bid for a first-place finish.
The NTSB cited photo and video evidence that a piece fell off the aircraft after Leeward completed several laps and made a steep left turn toward the home pylon and grandstand.
Investigators were also looking at whether Leeward’s health was a factor, safety board member Mark Rosekind said Monday.