The P-51 Mustang Galloping Ghost flown by 74-year-old Jimmy Leeward crashed violently near the grandstands, possibly in the box seat area, at the Reno Air Races in Nevada, Friday, possibly resulting in multiple casualties. The aircraft appears to have come down in a near vertical angle at high speed. Early reports state that “an official” at the event described the crash as a “mass casualty situation.” Reports late Friday suggest at least three people died and more than 50 were taken to hospital, some with critical injuries. The crash took place at about 4:15 p.m. during an Unlimited Gold heat. Leeward, an Ocala, Fla., real estate developer, was a longtime EAA director and experienced racing pilot.
EAA President Rod Hightower was in Reno at the time of the accident and said Leeward was a prominent aviation booster. “This is a tremendous loss for aviation. Jimmy Leeward was a great friend of aviation and a great friend of EAA. His death is a loss for the entire aviation community.” The races have been cancelled but for a memorial service that will be held in the Leeward pit area at 1 p.m. Saturday.