Death toll in Reno air crash rises to nine: police chief

Dave Evans said yesterday the remains of seven victims, including the pilot, were recovered from the tarmac at the National Championship Air Races site in the desert outside Reno, adding to two people who had already been confirmed dead by a local hospital.

"We transported 54 patients from the scene here to area hospitals. Of those... hospitals reported two fatalities. We also have a total of seven fatalities that we know of at this time on the tarmac to include the pilot," he said.

Eight of those injured remained in critical condition, according to updated figures released by the two main hospitals where casualties were taken.

The vintage P-51 Mustang was flying in the National Championship Air Races Friday when its elderly pilot, a race veteran, apparently lost control of the aircraft and it plunged at full speed into spectators.

Amateur video captured the moment the plane, a single-seat fighter aircraft from the 1940s called the "Galloping Ghost," barrel-rolled wildly through the sky and smashed at a near-vertical angle into a roped-off area for spectators, narrowly missing a grandstand packed with many more people.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official added that it was "very unlikely" that the aircraft had a black box, but confirmed investigators were looking into reports that a piece of the plane may have come off before the accident.

"We are aware of that. In fact, a component has been recovered in the area where that was observed. But I think it is critical at this point to know that we have not identified the component," said the official, Mark Rosekind.

"It will be examined... we don't really know what the component is or if it came from this particular aircraft. We are very clearly going to focus on that. That's part of the factual information gathering that's going on now."

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