As the Reno Air Races get under way this coming week I can’t help but reflect on last years tragic race events. I had
picked up my father from the airport (he flies his own plane to Reno). After getting settled at home we each took a well deserved nap. Around 5 p.m. my mother called. In a panicked voice she asked if we had been at the air races that day. “No,” I replied, “we both took a nap.” I started to giggle, what a luxurious life I lead. My mother brought me back to the conversation.
“Did you see the news? There was a terrible airplane crash at the races today. I was so worried about you two. When Carol heard the news she came right over to be with me.”
“No Mom, we’re fine we never went today. What are you talking about?” I asked.
“A plane crashed right down into the crowd and killed a bunch of people,” she said.
“Oh my gosh!” My father walked into the room, his hair slightly disheveled, and I quickly told him there was a crash at the races today. We turned on the t.v. and were astounded by the news. It looked like some kind of war zone. People were airlifted by helicopter to the hospital. We saw a victim wheeled into the hospital on a gurney and it appeared he was missing a leg.
What happened at the races? The newscaster reported that some in the crowd were hit by flying airplane parts when the
plane crashed straight into the ground. We heard reports of beheading, sheared arms and legs. It was carnage. My father and I were completely speechless and all we could do was watch the same news report over and over.
My father, a seasoned pilot, sat and tried to figure out what had gone wrong with the pilot, or what could have possible gone wrong with the plane. He was trying to make some kind of sense of the whole thing by working out the different scenarios of what the pilot was doing at the precise moment the aircraft failed. I reeled from the details of the crash. I told my father that had we gone to the races that day, the location of the crash is just where I wanted to sit. I felt like splurging on tickets since this weekend it was just the two of us (my husband was away from home and my mom didn’t come to Reno on this trip).
What a tragedy for the family members who lost loved ones that day and those seriously injured.
My father knew people who worked at NBC and felt he could meet up with them and hear more news about the crash, so the next day we headed to the race site to see what we could find out. It was a subdued atmosphere. The pilots were packing up their gear and planes, and heading home. We were blocked from the crash site, but the news people had been hanging around for hours waiting for a special announcement from race officials. Needless to say, we didn’t get much information, but it was depressing and unfortunate that so many race hopefuls had to pack it in before even starting.
There was no question, the races were canceled, maybe even forever.
But, here it is September, and the air races are scheduled. My father is coming and my mother too. My father has never missed a race in over forty years, except when they were canceled after 9/11. My mother refuses to attend after she witnessed one crash some thirty years ago. I can’t really blame her.
- NTSB: Plane Topped Limits In 2011 Reno Race Crash (insurancejournal.com)