Unlimited Racer Galloping Ghost piloted by accomplished 74-year-old racer Jimmy Leeward went out of control and crashed during an Unlimited Heat on Friday at around 4:30 pm PDT and went straight in near the stands, killing multiple people on the ground. Authorities reported that the number of dead now stands at 11, with seven people having been killed in the initial crash and four others dying later. They also said that of the 70 people who received hospital treatment because of the crash, four still remain in critical condition.
Seemingly incontrovertable photographic evicence has emerged that the airplane lost its left elevator trim tab while in flight. The airplane went out of control when it was flying at approximately 450 mph, went vertical, rolled inverted and then dove into the ground at a near vertical angle, scattering debris in a wide swath. The NTSB is aware of this evidence and has in its possession the part that might be the trim tab.
It is not known whether the loss of a trim tab could have caused the airplane to go out of control as it did. A veteran Reno racer who contacted Flying said that he doubted that explanation and thinks that Leeward’s P-51 might have experienced a high-speed stall while pulling up in reaction to the trim malfunction. The NTSB has not weighed in on that theory yet.
The Mustang, as seen in this still from a youtube video, was descending at a very high rate of speed going nearly straight in. It impacted near the front of the stands in an area where many people were seated in chairs on the ramp watching the heat. Video footage of the aftermath shows a scene of carnage, with first responders tending to the injured. They arrived on scene within moments of the crash.
Late on Friday race organizers canceled the remainder of the event.
Here is a link to a video of the crash from YouTube. Please be aware it is graphic.