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Nine Die, Dozens Injured After Nevada Air Crash

GUY RAZ, Host:

The death toll in yesterday's tragic air accident at an air show in Reno, Nevada, has now risen to at least nine. A vintage World War II fighter somehow lost control during the show and plunged into the crowd. Dozens of other people were injured. And federal aviation investigators are now trying to piece together what happened.

Joining me now from Reno is Brian Duggan of the Reno Gazette-Journal. He's at the crash site. Brian, thanks for joining us.


RAZ: First of all, such a tragedy, nine dead, and several others in critical condition. Do officials expect that death toll to rise further?

DUGGAN: Officials aren't giving any word on the status, except that many were still in critical condition. However, given many of the witness accounts yesterday, unfortunately, it can seem only likely that more will perish.

RAZ: Mm. What happened? What do investigators think happened?

DUGGAN: Well, at this point, they're not specifying much. Earlier today, Mike Rosekind, a board member with the National Transportation Safety Board, told the press that they are just starting on this investigation and it's likely to take a very long time to come to any sort of conclusion.

What we do know at this point based on some photographs that were taking of the airplane as it was coming down before it crashed, there was a portion of the elevator, the flat part of the tail, and it appeared to be missing or malfunctioning. This is, of course, pure speculation at this point. We cannot clearly say if that was the reason the plane came down. However, the NTSB is looking into that, and Mr. Rosekind did say that they found a - some mechanical parts on the tarmac today that did - that could suggest - this thing called the elevator trim tab malfunction.

RAZ: Mm-hmm. Brian, tell me about the event, the Reno Championship Air Races. I mean, how big of a deal has this event been in Reno?

DUGGAN: It's huge. It draws into thousands and thousands of people to the region each year. Estimates say it brings in about $80 million worth of economic activity. Yeah, this is a true Reno event. And yesterday's tragedy has reverberated around the - its entire city. There have been reports that the blood banks have been backed up for hours. I saw someone tweet that they've already taken in more blood donations than after September 11th terrorist attacks. People take this to heart.

RAZ: Wow. I mean, what's your sense of how the community is doing?

DUGGAN: Heartbreak. Reno's mayor, Bob Cashell, kind of spoke today, and he sounded up pretty well when he said my heart dropped after he learned of the tragedy. It's easily said that the rest of the community feels the same way.

RAZ: That's reporter Brian Duggan of the Reno Gazette-Journal at the site of yesterday's crash at an air show in Reno, Nevada. Brian, thank you so much.

DUGGAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.