In aftermath of Nevada airplane accident, some relief
When initial reports broke at the end of the work week yesterday, the Nevada airplane accident at the Reno Air Races sounded like an unparalleled tragedy. During the final race of the day and before several thousand spectators, a World War II-era fighter plane suddenly shuddered and plummeted down toward the grandstand full of air race fans. It was initially unclear what area had been hit and how many people might have been hurt, but reports indicated that several dozen people seemed to have suffered serious Nevada personal injuries.
As Nevadans awoke the next morning, many details had been nailed down. A total of just over 50 people were taken to the Reno area’s two major hospitals: Renown Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. The pilot and two others were pronounced dead at the scene, and two of those taken to trauma centers in Reno died overnight. The pilot’s age — originally reported on national news outlets as being 80 — was 74 years old when he was killed as his plane crashed abruptly near the end of the race.
Investigations are underway by federal accident inspectors, and reports will likely take months to compile. But a consensus is developing that mechanical failure is to blame. The pilot was very experienced and — despite his age — appears to have reacted swiftly to steer the plane away from the main grandstand as it crashed, arguably saving dozens of lives. With a death toll of five at this point and some 50 injured, this Nevada air accident is a tragedy but not an unthinkable disaster the likes of the Ramstein air show incident in 1988 that took 70 lives and seriously injured nearly 400 spectators.
Because human error initially appears not to have been a factor in the crash, the investigation may trace the cause of the crash to defective mechanical components. If this reveals that the manufacturer of one of the many third-party components of this souped-up, 70-year-old plane sold parts that were shoddy or defective, it could face major civil lawsuits under Nevada defective product laws. On the other hand, if the crucial error(s) are traced to the faulty work of a mechanic or insufficient safety checks by air race officials, those individuals could face liability under Nevada wrongful death statutes for their roles in the crash.
As saddening and disruptive as this tragedy has been, it has been heartwarming to see the Northern Nevada community come together swiftly to raise money for victims’ families and to volunteer to donate blood to local blood banks. Our hearts go out to those affected from all of us here at our Nevada personal injury law firm.
[Update: the death toll has been raised to nine after additional victims died while hospitalized.]