NTSB Says Plane's Video Memory Cards Could Hold Clues to Reno Crash

NTSB says WWII-era plane had camera, memory cards discovered at scene of crash.

September 18, 2011, 8:11 AM

Sept. 18, 2011— -- The World War 11-era stunt plane that crashed into a grandstand near Reno, killing nine, was equipped with a video camera that could help investigators learn what led to the horrific crash.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said today that the airplane had a recording system, and a box containing memory cards was found at the scene of the crash.

Investigators say they'll analyze the cards to see if there is any footage that could explain what happened.

The crash happened Friday during an air race in Reno, injuring a total of 69 people seated in the VIP seats on the tarmac. Witnesses said that as the P-51 Mustang Galloping Ghost piloted by Jimmy Leeward rounded the final clubhouse turn, something dropped off the tail of the plane, and that that may have been what caused the problem.

"I saw the spinner, the wings, the canopy just coming right at us. It hit directly in front of us, probably 50 to 75 feet," Ryan Harris, of Round Mountain, Nev., told The Associated Press. "The next thing I saw was a wall of debris going up in the air. That's what I got splashed with. In the wall of debris I noticed there were pieces of flesh."

NTSB investigators recovered a component in the area where witnesses say they saw something drop.

Officials said it's unclear whether this is connected to the plane that crashed or another one.

In fact, the photos appear to support eyewitness accounts that pieces of the P51's tail started falling off.

"Pictures and video appear to show a piece of the plane was coming off," Rosekind said at a news conference. "A component has been recovered. We have not identified the component or if it even came from the airplane. ... We are going to focus on that."

The tragedy in Reno was another near miss for Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head earlier this year in Tucson.

Kelly was scheduled to fly a P51 similar to the one that crashed at the Reno air show, though he was not going to be racing. He apparently did not witness the crash.

As investigators work to piece together what caused the crash, officials are also looking into another fatal air show crash this weekend.

A day after the air race crash in Reno, an antique plane crashed at an air show in Martinsburg, W.Va., Saturday.

Pilot John Mangan was flying a 1958 T-28 Warbird when it suddenly crashed after completing an acrobatic move with another T-28. Mangan was killed. No other injuries were reported.

ABC News' David Wright, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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