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On a New Road

I'm aliveFriday September 16, 2011
Just barely. I'm at the air races in Reno with a bunch of friends and a horrific accident just happened. One of the very high end racers, going about 500 mph, lost control and nose dived straight into the audience. The news is currently saying that the plane missed the grandstand, but that's only technically true: in front of the grandstand there are several rows of box seats. It impacted right in the middle of them. I was in a box seat with my friends only 40 feet from the impact. I was watching the plane as it lost control, so I saw the whole thing. The impact happened so fast, there was hardly any sound: just one huge shock wave. No fireball. The plane, and many people, disintegrated instantly, right in front of me. There were bodies everywhere. No crash you've ever seen in a movie is even remotely authentic.

Update: it's already on YouTube[YouTube pulled it]. I was in the middle of the dust cloud you see around the impact. They're saying "30 serious injuries" but I know that's a long way from the truth. Many died instantly in the impact. It was not a small airplane. You either died or you didn't. I didn't. My brother and I are still shaking.

Another Update: They're now officially calling it a "mass casualty situation". The plane was Galloping Ghost, piloted by Jimmy Leeward. It was a very cool, highly modified, P51 mustang with a very unusual approach to engine cooling. I doubt that this was at all connected to the accident - it looked like a control system failure.


Wow! Glad you're okay. It looks like it was the Galloping Ghost that went down. Maybe their creative engineering lacked a bit of foresight. Keep us updated. Best of luck, Ryan

Posted by Ryan on September 16, 2011 at 05:48 PM PDT #

Yeah. Glad you're ok. The plane nose dived into the crowed. So far 12 death and 75 wounded.

Posted by arzki on September 16, 2011 at 06:13 PM PDT #

Glad to hear you're okay! Sympathetic thoughts to the families of those lost as well! Best, Bob

Posted by Bob Cross on September 16, 2011 at 06:14 PM PDT #

Oh my gosh James! Thank goodness you are okay. I am so sorry for those so close by and so much less fortunate.

Posted by Michelle Dennedy on September 16, 2011 at 06:54 PM PDT #

Thank god you survived. I hope you are wrong and that there are no casualties other than the pilot. take care of yourself.

Posted by Bob Douglas on September 16, 2011 at 07:18 PM PDT #

I was reading something recently that defined 'mass casualty situation'. It's like those scenes in the M*A*S*H television series where they're sorting patients based on how long they'll survive without treatment, because they don't have enough medical staff to treat everybody. I think it's safe to say that it's very very ugly out there right now.

Posted by Glenn on September 16, 2011 at 07:30 PM PDT #

So scary. Glad you were not one of the victims! Prayers.

Posted by Kathleen on September 16, 2011 at 07:41 PM PDT #

R u free for a chat with Sky News Australia?

Posted by Tracey Spicer on September 16, 2011 at 07:43 PM PDT #

[Trackback] Java creator's eyewitness report of air crash:

Posted by lnxwalt280 on September 16, 2011 at 07:49 PM PDT #

[Trackback] : Java creator's eyewitness report of air crash:

Posted by lnxwalt300 on September 16, 2011 at 07:50 PM PDT #

Wow! Glad you are ok!

Posted by James on September 16, 2011 at 07:59 PM PDT #

YouTube video already removed due to "Terms of Service violation."

Posted by Nick H on September 16, 2011 at 09:44 PM PDT #

Take care of yourself, this must be so traumatic...

Posted by Laurent on September 16, 2011 at 09:44 PM PDT #

Youtube pulled the video, any mirrors?

Posted by J on September 16, 2011 at 09:55 PM PDT #

Glad you're okay. So sorry you had to witness that. Take some time and do what you need to do now. My thoughts are with the witnesses and families.

Posted by JohnB on September 16, 2011 at 10:05 PM PDT #

Glad you're ok. I hope the rest of our friends are as well. Trying to check...

Posted by Bill Knoche on September 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM PDT #

what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.. or terrified of airplanes.

Posted by MikeAnaquod on September 16, 2011 at 10:13 PM PDT #

That youtube video has been pulled (terms of service violation?) Anyone got a mirror?

Posted by McLaren Vale Shiraz on September 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM PDT #

An alternate video to the youtube is available here:

Posted by Claire Valley Shiraz on September 16, 2011 at 10:25 PM PDT #

It's sad when accidents like these happens. Seeing some pictures I would say that it could have been a lot worse - if the plane had come in horizontally. If it was a mechanical or a pilot failure remains to be seen - if it ever can be determined. At the age the pilot was it's not completely unheard of emergency health issues.

Posted by NH on September 16, 2011 at 10:33 PM PDT #

Here's another youtube upload, likely won't last long

Posted by Jarrett on September 16, 2011 at 10:43 PM PDT # accident is around 38mins in but be warned its very graphic/gorey, strong stomachs recommended :(

Posted by jkg on September 16, 2011 at 11:08 PM PDT # this had the link to the previous (graphic) clip

Posted by jkg on September 16, 2011 at 11:11 PM PDT #

This looks like the cause

Posted by pat on September 16, 2011 at 11:23 PM PDT #

There is a better view here:

Posted by Matt on September 17, 2011 at 12:01 AM PDT #

Wow, I'd say you're running good -- maybe you should hit the blackjack tables while you're there. You've survived both this and a trip to downtown San Jose in barely a week. Regardless, don't split 10's -- you're not _that_ lucky.

Posted by ewertz on September 17, 2011 at 12:22 AM PDT #

Wow, glad to hear you're ok... Scary. In the 1980s I was at an airshow at Lemoore Naval Air Station in the central valley, CA where the Blue Angels were performing. There were over 100K people on the tarmac when a pre-show pilot in a Navy Trainer came in for a low dive and his wings couldn't take the stress on the upside and he rolled and crashed and died in a fireball. I can still remember the eeriness of 100K people going silent at once and then the sound of people crying. For the record the Blue Angels still performed. But for about a week I was seriously shaken... But being 50ft away and all the people killed would be an order of magnitude more chilling.....

Posted by tdf on September 17, 2011 at 12:26 AM PDT #

Glad you're ok.

Posted by Ammon on September 17, 2011 at 12:30 AM PDT #

Glad you are OK James. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have been as close as you were and saw what you did.

Posted by Alan Hargreaves on September 17, 2011 at 01:24 AM PDT #

Wishing to you, brother and friends safe weekend and future, from what you had seen.

Posted by Petr Antos on September 17, 2011 at 02:25 AM PDT #

I just saw this on the news; very weird to find out someone I know was there. Sounds awful.

Posted by Tim Boudreau on September 17, 2011 at 02:27 AM PDT #

James, Glad you and your brother weren't injured - any near miss makes you aware of how brief life is. Have a good beer with him and take in a sunset, sir.

Posted by Ivan McCann on September 17, 2011 at 03:50 AM PDT #

Happy to hear you are OK. Thoughts and prayers to those who were injured and to families of those killed.

Posted by Mark Thacker on September 17, 2011 at 05:10 AM PDT #

I was surprised to hear you were so close to that disaster, but immensely relieved to hear you are OK. Now my thoughts are with those injured or worse and their families. It's going to be a long road for them.

Posted by Geoff Knauth on September 17, 2011 at 05:17 AM PDT #

James, very glad you made it out alive. I bet you can still feel the adrenaline when watching the video! Have a good weekend.

Posted by Klaus Sonnenleiter on September 17, 2011 at 06:31 AM PDT #

Youtube vids are not gone - watched two this morning ET.

Posted by l2b on September 17, 2011 at 07:23 AM PDT #

Glad you're ok, James! I guess the real world did not have safe exception handling when something crashes :D

Posted by Rayson Ho (Open Grid Scheduler) on September 17, 2011 at 07:42 AM PDT #

Glad you're OK, James, but wow, I can't begin to imagine what you've been through - Be safe and stay well, OK?

Posted by AJ on September 17, 2011 at 08:07 AM PDT #

We are all so glad you are ok. This is a terrible loss and I pray for all those who suffered. Please stay strong James.

Posted by Bob Gourley on September 17, 2011 at 09:01 AM PDT #

Glad you're ok - the large-scale photo at bears out the horror you describe. Terrible.

Posted by alecm on September 17, 2011 at 09:06 AM PDT #

Hello James, Glad to hear you're okay. I'm a reporter with the Los Angeles Times covering the air show crash. Would you be up for speaking with me about what you saw? I'm reachable through email or my work phone, 213-237-4539. Thank you for you're time. Best, Stephen

Posted by Stephen Ceasar on September 17, 2011 at 09:20 AM PDT #


Posted by raji on September 17, 2011 at 09:40 AM PDT #

Holy crap. Glad you're ok!!

Posted by Matthew Reiser on September 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM PDT #

Is there another link to the video? Youtube pulled it.

Posted by Joshua on September 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM PDT #

well gosh, it made international news. Not exactly a headline I'd like to have a part in. Sorry you did James

Posted by Anonymous on September 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM PDT #

write once, run FAST

Posted by Jon on September 17, 2011 at 11:08 AM PDT #

Stephen Ceasar, embodying the "dirty laundry" ethos of journalism.

Posted by Don Henley on September 17, 2011 at 11:18 AM PDT #

How dare Stephen Caesar show interest in an intelligent eyewitness! He should just quietly transcribe the carefully constructed official story out of Reno.

Posted by Dude on September 17, 2011 at 11:54 AM PDT #

" At least that many died instantly in the impact" 9 deaths. 2 of which happened at the hospital.|topnews|text|Local%20News People involved in these instances are always poor judge of result and detail of the events. especially regarding casualties.

Posted by Geekoid on September 17, 2011 at 01:55 PM PDT #

Scary stuff. I have a bad feeling the 'loss of control' will turn out to not be a mechanical failure in the aircraft but of the pilot's body. 70+ years old is a pretty advanced age to be pulling those G-forces. As far as the body count. If the impact was in the middle of the box seats as recounted here, I'd go with the high end of the death tolls. They are counting bodies now, but have yet to identify the remains of those who were left shredded in the same condition as the aircraft.

Posted by Bruce C. on September 17, 2011 at 02:05 PM PDT #

Thanks for the first-hand report.

Posted by Arthur T. Murray on September 17, 2011 at 02:17 PM PDT #

Green Man: Plenty of blame to go around on that one. No reason be a dick about it. It's just uncalled for. My personal favorite is sc. For a lot of years I did all my personal accounting on that program. Very nicely done.

Posted by Richard S on September 17, 2011 at 04:48 PM PDT #

A terrible accident; I suggest you edit your initial post and get rid of the vulgarity in it. Never appropriate and certainly not here. R Smith Emergency Responder

Posted by Randel Smith on September 17, 2011 at 08:16 PM PDT #

I really dislike the fact that the original post was edited. I'm putting the original up at my own blog, posting a link later.

Posted by Pete on September 18, 2011 at 02:40 AM PDT #

How awful to have been so close to that, yet how wonderful that both you and your brother survived. I love airshows and aircraft more than most people (I'm a private pilot) but I must say that when high performance aircraft operate in close proximity to crowds of people, the stakes are extremely high. Relieved to hear of your near miss and I am sure all our thoughts are with the victims.

Posted by Dave on September 18, 2011 at 03:56 AM PDT #

Glad you're OK, BUT, now you have a small idea of what we combat MARINES go through, w/o the bullets coming at you. Semper Fi

Posted by riggarob on September 18, 2011 at 08:41 AM PDT #

Thank God, James. I was thinking about you since I know you went to these races. So glad you and the others are ok. Best wishes!

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on September 18, 2011 at 09:13 AM PDT #

Glad that you are ok. I saw it from the biplane hangar. Only the pitch-up and the nose dive, though. We didn't have a view of the grandstands, but it was immediately clear that this was near the grandstands. Could have been much worse, if it had been on the weekend. The box seats and the grandstands would have been much more crowded then.

Posted by JoeF on September 18, 2011 at 11:16 PM PDT #

Than God and glad to here that Sir. I want to see you for years since you are the god for the Java peoples. God bless you Sir.

Posted by Atul Palandurkar on September 19, 2011 at 05:30 AM PDT #

Glad you're safe!

Posted by lskrocki on September 19, 2011 at 08:08 AM PDT #

Glad you are fine. Take care. Heart goes out to the families of those lost in this tragedy.

Posted by Vijay Tatkar on September 19, 2011 at 12:59 PM PDT #

Glad you and the rest of your party are safe and sound. Cydney's first response was, "tell him Thank God! we can't afford to loose any of our Sun heroes." You can't imagine how much she misses putting on SuperG with and for you guys. Take Care.

Posted by Mike Stevens on September 19, 2011 at 06:36 PM PDT #

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