11 killed in 2011 crash at Reno air races honored

Sep 17, 2012, 1:44 AM

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Spectators and racers paid tribute Sunday to 11 people who were killed when a plane crashed into box seats at last year’s Reno National Championship Air Races.

A moment of silence was held on the anniversary of the horrific accident at Reno-Stead Airport for pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 victims on the ground.

The emotional ceremony before a crowd of tens of thousands also featured the release of white balloons and a flag presentation after each victim’s name was read.

“Today is dedicated to paying tribute to all of those so greatly affected by the cold, unsympathetic and somber hands of fate … and to memorializing those 11 members of our air race family who are no longer with us today ,” said Mike Houghton, president of the Reno Air Racing Association.

Among injured victims in attendance were members of a Kansas family. The crash killed 73-year-old Cherie Elvin, of Lenexa, Kan., while her husband, Chuck, sons Brian and Bill, and daughter-in-law Linda Elvin lost part of their legs.

Bill Elvin told the Reno Gazette-Journal that his heart was racing Friday as he watched a plane come around the final pylon closest to the box seats, but slowly began to relax. Like other members of his family, he’s an aviation fan who thinks organizers have made the air races as safe as possible.

“How do you protect people from catastrophic events?” he told the newspaper. “They happen because we are human. If we were perfect, no accidents would happen … But that’s not how life is. We have to accept that’s how life is.”

Leeward’s World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter reached 530 mph before it pitched skyward and then slammed nose-first into the box seats fronting the grandstand, killing him and 10 others. Seventy others were injured.

Federal investigators last month blamed Leeward, 74, of Ocala, Fla., and his aircraft modifications for the crash. A crucial tail control known as the trim tab fluttered, its screws loosening.

The crash prompted the implementation of new safety measures, including a redesigned race course that adds 150 feet of buffer _ pushing the distance between racing planes and the permanent grandstand to at least 1,000 feet.

Also honored Sunday at the air races was Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Members of the National Aviation Heritage Invitational announced a trophy awarded to the best vintage aircraft restored to airworthy condition would be renamed after Armstrong.

Armstrong, who died last month in Ohio at age 82, walked on the moon in July 1969.

Among aviation pioneers who paid tribute to Armstrong were Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher and record-setter Dick Rutan.

The weeklong air races conclude with the finals Sunday. It’s the only event of its kind in the world, sometimes with wingtip-to-wingtip racing 100 feet off the ground in six classes of aircraft.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

A hiring sign is displayed outside of a restaurant in Arlington Heights, Ill., Monday, Jan. 30, 202...
Associated Press

Job market still hot, December openings rise to 11 million

U.S. job openings rose to 11 million in December, delivering a setback to the Federal Reserve's effort to cool a hot job market.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/John Locher)...
Associated Press

Is pumping Mississippi River water to the west a solution or dream?

Amid a major drought in the Western U.S., a proposed solution comes up repeatedly: large-scale river diversions.
1 day ago
US Vice President Kamala Harris (R) greets friends and family of Tyre Nichols during his funeral se...
Associated Press

Emotional calls for police reform at Tyre Nichols’ funeral

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered an impassioned speech calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
1 day ago
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at...
Associated Press

Fed lifts rate by quarter-point but says inflation is easing

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve extended its fight against high inflation Wednesday by raising its key interest rate a quarter-point, its eighth hike since March. And the Fed signaled that even though inflation is easing, it remains high enough to require further rate hikes. At the same time, Chair Jerome Powell said at a […]
1 day ago
The Colorado River Basin supplies water to 40 million people in seven western states. (Photo by Jus...
Kevin Stone

Arizona leaders call out California on Colorado River water negotiations

Arizona politicians are calling for more cooperation from California in negotiations over Colorado River water supply distribution.
1 day ago
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, left, wants to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayor...

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona aims to impeach Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona is pursuing articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of border security.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
11 killed in 2011 crash at Reno air races honored