I wasn't called into work on Friday night, but as a journalist, I am always working and I was inadvertently among
some of those witnesses as they tried to heal from what they saw. My wife and I were at the Ole Bridge Pub in downtown Reno
at about 8 pm on Friday. All eyes were locked on the KOLO's news on a big screen TV. The sound was off on the TV as the broadcasters
mouths moved between grainy images of a plane spiking into the sky then a massive explosion on the ground, ambulances and
Some guys were standing there
in silence watching the screen with the awe-inspiring pictures. The two men had big black 7s written on their hands and I
cracked the ice by telling them there was a crash at the air races. They both whipped their eyes toward me and said, "We
know. We were there." I pointed out the 7s on their hands and they said they were standing in bleacher section 7 when
I told them I am a newscaster and told them I could probably put them on air right
now, but they didn't want to be identified and refused an on-camera interview. They were however eager to talk about what
they had seen. So, here is our conversation.
said they knew the pilot of the silver Galloping Ghost, "Jimmy" through an aircraft museum that they operated. Jimmy
had no medical conditions, they said, and the way the crash happened proved to them that he had some control of the plane
as it went down. They said that while they were standing there in Section 7 in the bleachers the plane "had a normal
mayday," flying up, to the center of the raceway and away from the crowd. But then it was suddenly headed right for them
and the crowd. They barely had time to run. "I went this way and my brother went that way."
that at the last minute, through his small window of sight, at high speed of about 300 mph, Jimmy must have been able to see
the bleachers and maneuver the plane away but he could not avoid the boxes of spectators on the ground. They said they would
be surprised if the initial reports of 12 deaths turned out to be the final death toll. Regardless, they say that Jimmy's
last minute move away from the bleachers saved many lives.
They also explained that this is the only real air race in the nation and that this accident puts the event in jeopardy.
Federal authorities will tolerate pilot deaths but spectator casualties are another entire issue of concern that they are
less likely to tolerate. They said they hope it doesn't put the air races on thin ice. For now, the NTSB has taken over the
investigation, the Reno Air Races are canceled and a public memorial is being planned.
The two witnesses
I spoke to wanted the public to know, that Jimmy's last minute move spared lives and that was probably his dying thought,
how to avoid as many people as possible as he plummeted toward the crowd.
Any witnesses are urged to call the KOLO-TV Newsroom at 775-858-8880