NTSB recovers tail parts of Reno crash plane

A P-51 Mustang airplane is shown upside down right before crashing into the stands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, in Reno Nevada.
AP Photo/Grass Valley Union, Tim O'Brien

RENO - Investigators from the NTSB have recovered and identified a portion of the tail of the plane involved in Friday's crash at the Reno Air Races.

NTSB board member Mark Rosekind told reporters the crater left behind by the impact measures 6-8 feet wide and three feet deep, reports CBS Affiliate KTVN.

The actual crash site is more than an acre large.

Based on the crater's location, it appears the P-51 Mustang went straight down in the first few rows of VIP box seats, or about 65 feet in front of the leading edge of the grandstand, reports KTVN correspondent Kellene Stockwell.

An investigator said it will be "highly difficult" to recreate the wreckage scene since the plane is in fragments. Yellow crime tape surrounds the site.

The recovered plane tail is also in pieces.

On Sunday, investigators will document the rest of the site for a detailed analysis later. Pictures and video obtained by the NTSB will be transported to its lab in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Rosekind said the NTSB is encouraged by the number of videos and photos available to them. He added it will take some time to review them all.

The death toll rose to nine Saturday as investigators determined that several onlookers were killed on impact as the plane appeared to lose a piece of its tail before slamming like a missile into the crowded tarmac.

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Some members of the crowd have reported noticing a strange gurgling engine noise from above before the P-51 Mustang, dubbed The Galloping Ghost, pitched violently upward, twirled and took an immediate nosedive into the crowd.

The plane, flown by a 74-year-old veteran racer and Hollywood stunt pilot, disintegrated in a ball of dust, debris and bodies as screams of "Oh my God!" spread through the crowd.

The crash killed the pilot, Jimmy Leeward, and eight spectators. So far, two have been identified. Michael Wogan, 22, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had muscular dystrophy and was in a wheelchair the VIP section when the plane crashed, the family said Saturday. The Washoe County, Nev., medical examiner identified the other victim as Greg Morcom of Washington State, a first-time spectator at the show, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Veteran airman Jimmy Leeward among dead in Reno

Organizers of the National Championship Air Races earlier said it appears a mechanical failure with the P51 Mustang was to blame. "Our job is to identify what caused this accident so we can make safety recommendations so it doesn't happen again," says Rosekind.