The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/16/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks, Lawrence.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us.
We begin with breaking news out of Reno, Nevada, where a vintage World
War II fighter aircraft has crashed into the stands at the National
Championship Air Races. Officials say this is, a quote, “mass casualty
One witness describing it as just like a massacre. It`s like a bomb
went off. Again, that`s from an onsite witness.
A video posted on YouTube of the crash actually shows the moment of
impact. We will show you that. I want to warn you, the footage is
KOLO TV is reporting at least 12 people have been killed. A medical
official telling “The Associated Press” that more than 75 people on scene
are injured, 25 of those injuries are considered critical injuries. And
this happened at about 4:30 p.m. local time in Nevada.
It was a P-51 vintage Mustang aircraft which crashed into what they`re
describing into the box seat area at the front of the grant stand.
Jeff Martinez, who is KRNV-TV weatherman, told the “Associated Press”
that he saw the plane veer to the right and then, quote, “It just augured
straight into the ground.”
The spokesman for the air races telling “The Associated Press” that
the pilot was 80-year-old Jimmy Leeward. This is his picture from his
Facebook page. KRNV reports that he`s 80 years old and from Florida.
According to his Facebook page, this is him flying the plane while
qualifying for the air races. The page also says he`d been racing
airplanes since the mid-1970s.
Again, there`s no word yet on why exactly this plane went down or
perhaps more importantly now, exactly how many people have been injured in
this incident. But medical officials say that 40 people, 40 people have
been taken to local hospitals by ambulance and at least one person has been
flown to a hospital.
Joining us now on the phone is reporter Andrew del Greco from our Reno
Andrew, thank you very much for joining us. You heard what I just
said about what we know there. Do you have any additional information
right now about the extent of the injuries and what happened here?
ANDREW DEL GRECO, KRNV REPORTER (via telephone): Well, Rachel, I can
tell you right now I`m looking at I`d say three or four dozen people, these
are people from the media, these are also some of the plane enthusiasts,
some who have been here at the Reno national championship area, looking at
people really from different law agencies.
We are standing by for a news conference that`s going to happen any
minute now. So, we should get some more concrete information I would say
any minute now. But I think it goes without saying that it`s basically a
scene of shock here.
These air races have been going on for decades and there have been
pilots who have crashed before, but nothing like what has taken place
today. We, as you have told your audience, a P-51 has gone down into an
area where we would think that maybe dozens of people were watching the air
races. So in years past, the crashes have not involved bystanders. Where
it looks like today that has been the case.
So, I`ve also heard some people wondering, you know, could this be the
end of the air races, with something like this happening? But it`s too
soon, of course, to get into that. That is for another day. Right now, we
want to know more about how many people were injured and if anyone died
today, unfortunately, or maybe how many people died.
And it looks like the news conference is about to get under way any
minute now. And if you would like to come back to me later in your show, I
bet you I can give you and your audience some more concrete information –
MADDOW: Absolutely. Thank you, Andrew. One last question for you.
We can see one – from the footage here, we can see one area of seating
from which the crash was viewed. Who would have been sitting in the area
it seems like the plane went down into?
DEL GRECO: Well, there are some witnesses who I talked to that said
it was a VIP area, but I do not have that confirmed. Of course, in these
kinds of emergency situations, the media, of course, we`re not the first
priority, as all the responders deal with their work. So, we have not been
officially addressed yet.
I can just tell you that some of the witnesses said it was a VIP area.
Possibly dozens of people who were there watching the race.
MADDOW: Andrew, are there multiple ambulances or air ambulances on
scene that you can tell?
DEL GRECO: Oh, there were dozens of ambulances here. I think most of
them have already taken people back to the area hospitals here in the Reno
area. But there were I would say dozens of ambulances from what I saw.
You had some flights – some helicopters above.
Right now, I do not see any helicopters and I would think that most
the ambulances have now taken the patients back to the hospitals.
MADDOW: Andrew del Greco from Reno affiliate, KRNV TV – thank you
Again, the basics of the situation are that a vintage plane
participating in an air race in Reno, Nevada, has crashed – apparently
crashed into a grandstand area. The footage that we have of the moment of
impact is taken, as you can see here, from one area of seating at this air
The reason that there may be so many casualties in this event, and
again, we do not have confirmed deaths, but reports of dozens of
casualties. The reason that there may be people hurt here is although you
can`t see it in this footage, apparently what`s happened is that this plane
went down into another area of seating, which is being described as a
grandstand. It`s possible that that was a VIP area, although we do not
have that sort of confirmation. It`s also possible that may have been a
grandstand where members of the media who were covering this event would
have been seated for doing that.
Again, that is unconfirmed. We just know that it`s a separate
grandstand from the seating area that you can see here. We are expecting
further information both from the authorities as they start to release
information. Again, this is still an unfolding crisis in Reno. Also
reporters on scene as we are able to get more concrete information about
the toll here, about what caused the crash and about what to expect as the
night rolls in Reno.
We will keep you posted. This is breaking news here on MSNBC.
MADDOW: Again, breaking news at this hour in Reno, Nevada, where at
an air race event the pilot of a vintage aircraft, a World War II aircraft,
has appeared to crashed into an area where spectators were watching the
race event. We do not at this point have confirmed deaths but we have
multiple reports of a great deal – a great number of casualties. We`re
hearing dozens of people injured at least in this event in Reno, Nevada.
This happened – you can see, this is daylight here. This is three
hours earlier than the East Coast. This was 4:30 p.m. Nevada time. And
that shows the moment of impact.
What you can`t see clearly from these images is that the place that
the plane hit the ground is thought to have been a grandstand area that was
relatively well-populated. You can see that this video was shot by
somebody who was there watching the air race from one area of seating, but
again, the plane seems to have gone down into another area of seating.
That`s why we are talking about dozens of casualties on the ground.
We`ve heard reports of dozens of ambulances taking people to hospitals
and some air ambulances on site.
Moments ago, just moments ago, officials on site held this very
informal press conference. Watch.
MIKE HOUGHTON, PRES. & CEO RENO AIR RACING ASSOCIATION: I`ve spent
quite a bit of time with the family. They`re obviously devastated. She
was a close friend of all of ours.
We`re going to have a memorial service in their pit at 1:00 tomorrow.
Best wishes to the family.
I`ll take questions at this point.
REPORTER: What else can you tell us about the pilot, sir?
HOUGHTON: The pilot was a good friend. He`s been here a long, long
time. He`s worked very hard to compete this year.
All I`ve heard are rumors like all the rest of you have as to what
caused the problem. Jimmy is a real estate developer out of Ocala,
Florida. He`s – most of his family was here.
REPORTER: And a number of other pilots came from his group, is that
correct, who are competing this weekend?
HOUGHTON: There`s a lot of them. It`s a close-knit family. There`s
a lot of them here.
REPORTER: Are any spectators dead?
HOUGHTON: I believe probably so. I`m not going to –
REPORTER: Any idea on any –
HOUGHTON: I don`t have a number. I`m not going to (INAUDIBLE) –
just to the east of the center of the grandstands is the measure mark. And
from the east there, the aircraft and the parts dispersed east, rows A and
B in the box. I don`t know how far down it went. It pretty well wiped out
the front of the box area, the aircraft, parts as well went to the north.
REPORTER: Can you tell us what people heard and saw in the moments
before the crash? Did the engine rev?
HOUGHTON: It appeared as though he lost control of the aircraft.
REPORTER: Did the engines rev or go silent?
HOUGHTON: Don`t know.
HOUGHTON: That`s the way they react. Probably that`s what he tried
to. It had to be a control service problem. Most probably.
Questions, anymore? Guys?
REPORTER: Anymore press conferences tonight?
HOUGHTON: Where`s my – what do you think? Why don`t we do this?
Let`s schedule another one at 7:00 and then I`ll give the information I`ve
been able to pick up between now and then.
The governor`s on his way out. Mayor Cashell is on his way out. City
manager is on his way out. We`ll be providing them with a briefing as
well. And at 7:00 I think is a fair time to be able to give you some more
REPORTER: Will you send out press releases after that?
HOUGHTON: We`ll send out press releases.
HOUGHTON: Fairly full, especially in that area. A lot of repeat fans
and they do pack up bigger than the general – the reserve grandstands do
REPORTER: He was a real estate developer?
HOUGHTON: He was a real estate developer in Ocala, Florida.
REPORTER: How long had he been flying?
HOUGHTON: Jimmy`s been here for a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1975.
HOUGHTON: `75. There we go. Thank you.
Any other questions, guys? I`m happy to answer whatever I know.
REPORTER: You didn`t know how many fatalities? Do you have any idea,
rough number of injuries? Dozens are we talking?
HOUGHTON: We`re talking in 40, 50 total involved is my guess. I was
out there. That was the estimate I made when I was on the site.
REPORTER: We saw a lot of ambulances. (INAUDIBLE) Did you see a
number – is this a mass casualty incident?
HOUGHTON: It is a mass casualty situation.
HOUGHTON: It clicks into position automatically. We went through a
drill two months ago on a mass casualty situation. We go through one every
two years. And we have a certain protocol that we go into on site. We
take control immediately and then it`s handed off into the true mass
casualty situation as soon as it`s deemed to be that.
HOUGHTON: That`s up to Valerie. We`ll call general press briefings
when we have information. So all I can tell you at this point, 7:00. If
it looks like we have more information that`s going to come by, we will
tell you at that point in time when the next one will be.
MADDOW: This is the latest from Reno, Nevada. Mike Houghton speaking
here, president and CEO of Reno Air Racing Association – the air races in
Reno, the site of what you see Mr. Houghton describing as a mass casualty
The breaking news at this hour is a vintage World War II era plane
piloted apparently by 80-year-old Jimmy Leeward, a real estate developer
from Florida, has crashed into the grandstands at this air race in Reno.
According to “Reno Gazette Journal,” the number they`re putting on it
in terms of injuries, so far 40 people have been taken to local hospitals
by ambulances and one person has been flown to the hospital. We hear the
round number of dozens have people having been injured here. Mr. Houghton,
the head of the racing association, on site there speaking to the press,
when asked if there were deaths on the ground, he said imagine that is true
given what happened with this crash.
But, again, deaths are not being confirmed officially at this point.
We`re being told that the governor, Brian Sandoval, of Nevada and the mayor
of Reno, Bob Cashell, are on their way out to the site of this crash in
Joining us on the phone now is Greg Feith, former investigator with
the National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB.
Mr. Feith, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate your time
GREG FEITH, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR (via telephone): You`re welcome.
MADDOW: How dangerous are air race events like this? And has there -
- have there been recent events at air races that should make us worry
about them in terms of their safety?
FEITH: Well, this is really the only type of air race of its kind in
the world. There are other types of high-speed events, the Red Bull pylon
But this type of race is really one of a kind. There have been a lot
of safe guards built into this racing over the years from lessons learned
from past accidents. But, again, you can never mitigate the risk to zero
because, you know, when you have an aircraft moving at 400, 500 miles an
hour, things happen very quickly, the altitude of the aircraft is very low.
So, any kind of reaction time that the pilot may have or if you have a
mechanical problem may not allow the safety margins that are typically
built into the normal part of the racing course.
MADDOW: We`re told that this was a vintage aircraft that crashed, a
P-51 Mustang. Do you know anything about that specific type of aircraft or
even that general type of vintage aircraft?
FEITH: Well, the P-51 was the mainstay in World War II. It was a
well-renowned fighter airplane that escorted the B-17s and, of course, the
Tuskegee airmen became famous flying the P-51.
But these aircraft are highly modified. So, even though the base
aircraft may be a P-51, this airplane is highly modified with very large
engines. The aerodynamic characteristics and controllability of the
airplane is substantially changed for the purpose of racing, because they
are racing at high speeds, they need to have more responsive flight
So, the base aircraft is a P-51. But when you look at it, it`s been
highly modified. So, you know, there are other World War II vintage
aircrafts flying, the P-51, the Bearcats, there`s the Sea Fury. So, there
are a number of World War II vintage airplanes modified for this particular
MADDOW: Air crashes of all kinds are regulated differently than other
forms of transportation and other more common disasters. Obviously the
priority on site right now in Reno is to keep as many people alive as
possible and to get the injured to hospitals and frankly to collected dead
if there are any. We heard from the head of the air racing association
that he expects there will be people killed among those hit by this crash
on the ground.
What will authorities be doing in terms of dealing with this as an air
crash? Will it be mostly a matter of reconstructing the crash site and as
much of the plane as they can to figure out why this crash happened?
FEITH: Absolutely, Rachel. The big thing here is that the airplane
hit at a very high rate of speed. So you can see from the latter portions
of the video that I think you`ve been showing that there was total
destruction of the airplane. It may never be known the exact mechanical
malfunction or failure of the aircraft if there was a mechanical
You have an 80-year-old pilot, you know, racing at these speeds,
pulling high G forces. He could have had a medical condition and was
Typically, the procedure is if you have some sort of problem, you`ll
typically call mayday, which some folks have said that this pilot may have
called a mayday, mayday, mayday, then pulled up which would be a standard
protocol to get out of the racer`s way and maneuver the airplane to a safe
haven, either, you know, put the airplane down somewhere else or land.
But it – from all accounts, and some of that video that I`ve seen, it
looks like there was a total loss of control. But you don`t know if it`s
mechanical or human. That is the pilot suffering some sort of medical
problem that resulted in the loss of control of the airplane.
MADDOW: Greg Feith, former investigator with the National
Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB – Greg, thank you for your time
tonight. I really appreciate it, sir.
FEITH: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: We will monitor the situation and bring you new information
as we receive it throughout the hour. But again, the breaking news this
hour is that in Reno, Nevada, at an air race, a vintage World War II era
plane has crashed into a grandstand laden with spectators.
At this point, we are hearing it`s described as a mass casualty
incident. Local fire officials are reporting multiple spectator fatalities
and critical injuries. We have heard from reporters on the scene there are
not only dozens of ambulances on scene, including some air ambulances, but
that dozens of people have been already been taken to the hospital. We do
not have confirmed numbers on the total number of injuries, critical
injuries or indeed fatalities.
But news is starting to trickle out from what happened here in this
horrific, horrific crash in Reno, Nevada. We will keep you posted. We`ll
be right back.
MADDOW: Jon Huntsman`s first campaign ad, telegraph the message, I`m
going to be the weird guy in the race. That, in fact, is not me on the
After that softest of all soft launches online, Jon Huntsman in-person
campaign launch was a formal speech from Jersey City, New Jersey – a
formal speech with a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty in the
background. Just like Ronald Reagan did. That will be awesome – except
when Jon Huntsman did it, his campaign neglected to frame the shot so you
could see the Statue of Liberty. Instead it was Jon Huntsman as you see
here, his head bisected by a parked tour boat.
And for the members of the media who covered the Jon Huntsman launch
with the tour boat, they got these press credentials which said they were
in New York. They were not. They were in New Jersey, and which featured
Jon Huntsman name spelled wrong. The candidate`s campaign handed out press
badges that had their own candidate`s name misspelled.
And when the press tried to follow the candidate from his announcement
to his first campaign event in New Hampshire that day, the press were led
accidentally to a plane that was actually bound not for New Hampshire but
for Saudi Arabia. So, it`s a logistically troubled campaign launch day for
But you know what? Whatever. Everybody has their moments.
You know, last night, we did half of this show without a teleprompter.
When these things happen you just move on. Or in the case of the Jon
Huntsman campaign, you try to move on but instead what happens is you just
continue with the mishaps and the flubs and you hope that nobody
extrapolates greater political meaning from the fact that these flubs keep
Like remember how the campaign spelled Jon Huntsman`s name wrong on
the credentials the first day and that was super embarrassing? That did
not stop the Jon Huntsman campaign from doing it again – on a mailer on
the all-important first primary state of New Hampshire. Once again, his
own campaign making him “John” with an “H” which is not the way you spell
Then a former Jon Huntsman aide did a tell-all with Politico.com which
resulted in this big seven-page click-through piece on “Politico” titled
“Inside the Drama,” describing Huntsman`s campaign as disorganized and full
of staff tension. According to “Politico,” this former aide had reached
out to him to discuss his concerns with the campaign. He initially
insisted that he`d be identified in any story only as a campaign insider.
But after reading a “Real Clear Politics” story that featured unnamed
Huntsman officials calling him a disruptive force, this particular aide was
infuriated and agreed to go on the record. That sort of tell-all,
backstabby, catty dirt-dishing usually happens once the campaign is over.
That`s usually the way campaign people treat each other of the campaign
lost and it`s done.
So, this is a bad sign for the campaign for Jon Huntsman for president
that Huntsman staffers and former staffers are already yelling at each
other on the Internet while the campaign is still going on.
Then there was that time the Huntsman campaign promised a major
announcement. It turned out to be the endorsement of Jeb bush. But not –
it wasn`t that Jeb Bush you`re thinking of. It was this Jeb Bush – Jeb
Bush, Jr., who was a person you never heard of.
And then there`s Jon Huntsman debating. It`s not that it`s that bad
necessarily. I think Mr. Huntsman did OK at the NBC debate earlier this
month. Certainly, no gaffes – except for the fact that he said nothing
that got noticed at all.
A few days later in the debate on CNN in Tampa, Florida, Mr. Huntsman
went back to the “I`m the weird motorcycle guy, notice me” strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: I want to go down and get your
thoughts on something you would bring to the White House if you were the
next president of the United States.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My wife`s going to kill me
for saying this. As a 40 year motorcycle rider, I would bring my Harley
Davidson and motocross bike.
BLITZER: Ladies and gentlemen, the eight Republican presidential
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Remember – remember when I was the cool weird motorcycle guy
though that wasn`t me on the motorcycle in my ad? Remember when I was that
guy, not the guy whose campaign was spelling his name wrong and having
their infighting on “Politico” and I had the boat on my head? Please
remember me as the motorcycle guy. Please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, when it comes to reforming Social
Security, is anything from your perspective off the table?
HUNTSMAN: I don`t think anything should be off the table. Except
maybe some of the drama that`s playing out here on this floor today. I
mean – to hear these two go at it over here, it`s almost incredible.
You`ve got Governor Romney who called it a fraud in his book “No Apology.”
I don`t know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is that the right audience for that? Jon Huntsman trying
very hard but emphatically failing to lock up the influential Kurt Cobain
fan base vote in the Republican presidential primary in Tampa. Maybe. I
What Jon Huntsman needs to be doing right now is becoming a credible
third way – someone who is not in the super-conservative Rick Perry,
Michele Bachmann camp but who was also not in the Romney-esque Mitt Romney
But what he`s doing instead can fairly be diagnosed, even if you like
Jon Huntsman. What`s happening to his campaign right now could fairly be
diagnosed as a failure to thrive.
Plus, not to mention, he did have the opportunity to use the Huntsman
theme song from that cartoon, which we offered him. He has never used it.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: If you had the option to use that and you were polling like
he`s polling, wouldn`t you use that?
Given his polling, a theme song or something is in fact what Jon
This week, in the land of Jon Huntsman polling, what looked like a
mistake actually wasn`t. The folks at Gallup released what they call –
they headline this – as their positive intensity scores for the Republican
presidential contenders. Positive intensity scores: Rick Perry, 24, Mitt
Romney at 16, Michele Bachmann at 10, Ron Paul at 7, Jon Huntsman at minus
1 – a negative number in positive intensity surveying.
How do you have a negative number on something that is called your
Earlier last month things were looking much better for Governor
Huntsman when he polled all the way up at plus 1. But, hey, it is above
zero. Jon Huntsman`s national polling since he started his campaign has
really been solid in the sense that it has been stable.
In “The Washington Post”/ABC poll taken in June, the month Mr.
Huntsman announced his candidacy, he was polling in a solid 1 percent. And
the same poll this month, he`s still at 1 percent. Last Friday, seven days
ago, the Huntsman campaign decided it was time to do things differently,
reallocate resources, shifts staff members from the Huntsman campaign hours
in Florida to instead Huntsman campaign headquarters in New Hampshire.
The campaign calling the shift in strategy “critical in our efforts in
New Hampshire and across the country.” For Jon Huntsman, winning the
nomination now means winning in New Hampshire. That is necessary but not
sufficient. It really is necessary.
And presumably, the campaign has some reason to believe he has the
potential to do well in New Hampshire or they wouldn`t be talking about its
importance. But when you look at how Huntsman is doing in got to win New
Hampshire to win everywhere, you can see Governor Huntsman`s big 4 percent
in the WMUR poll in May, there`s one important thing about that 4 percent.
That was before Jon Huntsman launched his campaign. By July, once he was
in the race, he was down to 2 percent.
So here is an open question. Why is Jon Huntsman still in this race?
Maybe there are some internal polls that indicate Governor Huntsman will
have a huge bump in the next wave of data?
Tim Pawlenty didn`t wait for the Iowa caucuses before he dropped out
with a thud. But Jon Huntsman, Mr. 1 percent, he`s still plugging away.
Why is that? Why is he not quitting?
Why is he still being taken seriously? Why is he still getting into
the debates? It`s a mystery.
But, today especially, there is a new even bigger mystery about this.
Why are Republican establishment figures, surprising Republican
establishment figures, still signing up with Jon Huntsman now? Last week,
we learned that a top Rick Perry donor is becoming Jon Huntsman`s campaign
chair. And today, today, from the Jon Huntsman campaign in New Hampshire,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNTSMAN: I`m delighted today to be here with Governor Tom Ridge.
He`s a war hero, he`s a prosecutor, he`s a businessman, he`s a former
congressman. Twice elected governor of Pennsylvania. Our nation`s first
ever secretary of homeland security.
And today, I`m honored and privileged to be able to call Tom not only
a friend but a supporter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tom Ridge – Tom Ridge is, in fact, all of those things. War
hero, prosecutor, former Pennsylvania governor, George W. Bush`s first
homeland security secretary – real serious heavy hitting no joke big deal
Republican Party establishment-type Republican with national name
recognition and considered for the vice presidency and all of that and he
is endorsing Jon Huntsman – today endorsing Mr. 1 percent.
We asked Mr. Ridge to come on the show tonight. He was very nice but
he said he was not able to be here. I got to tell you, I am desperate to
know, why is this happening? What is going on here? What is the secret
secret that explains why Mr. 1 percent is still in the debates, still being
taken seriously, still in the race at all and still now picking up new
endorsements and new Rick Perry donors to come work on his campaign?
Joining us now is Alex Wagner, MSNBC political analyst.
Alex, it`s good to have you here. Thanks for being here.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s great to be here. Thanks
for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is there a secret long game to explain why Jon Huntsman is
still in the race?
WAGNER: I think there is a real desire on the part of the GOP
establishment to have someone who is not Mitt Romney and not Rick Perry in
the race, and also not Michele Bachmann and not Herman Cain and not Ron
Paul. So, the de facto candidate is –
WAGNER: I forgot him.
It`s like – it`s sort of like high school. You have the football.
You have the captain of the football team. You have the president of the
student council, that would be Mitt Romney. And then you have the weird
guy in shop class who gets, like, nose bleeds at weird times. That would
be Jon Huntsman.
He keeps staying in there because I think he believes he can get to
February. He can get to New Hampshire and he`s going to show everybody
what he has – as you said. That is driven in large part by John Weaver,
his chief strategist, who ran McCain`s campaign. McCain was in sort of
similar predicament at some point in 2008 and, of course, ended up being
the GOP candidate.
MADDOW: Is there a problem in the Mitt Romney candidacy, though, that
is solved by Jon Huntsman?
WAGNER: Well, no – in that way – I actually go back to my high
school illusion. He`s almost – if Mitt Romney is the president of the
student council, Jon Huntsman is sort of like the annoying sergeant at
arms. I mean, there is – look, Jon Huntsman has some serious bona fides
in terms of executive experience, job creation, his foreign policy, et
cetera, et cetera, if you are looking at this field.
Mitt Romney has some version of those. It`s not like the Romney/Perry
dynamic I liken to a jigsaw puzzle, you know, one is concave, one is
convex. There`s not the same sort of call and response with Romney and
Huntsman. So, in that way, I think it`s very difficult for Huntsman to
draw a line saying, look, I`m this much more compelling than Mitt Romney.
And then you couple that with an abysmal performance on Monday at the
debates that literally gave rise, I think, across the Twitter-verse to
#groan. It was like, stop talking. You`ll get beyond 1 percent if you
stop making the bad jokes. Please do yourself a favor.
MADDOW: But in – I mean, I think your point about Weaver being his
campaign strategist and the comparison to what seems like a lost cause John
McCain campaign is apt. But in that case, isn`t it likely that the
strategy for his campaign depended on him just being better at this by now.
I mean, making some sort of showings in the debates so far.
WAGNER: Everybody is waiting for that better than this to arrive.
And that 1 percent might be Jon Huntsman`s family getting called in these
polls. Yes. And I think, look, there`s a real desire I think on the part
of the GOP establishment and even the Tea Party base to have a candidate.
They want to lock it down. They want to put a ring on it.
And February is a long – it`s – that`s several months from now. And
I think this goose may be cooked before then.
MADDOW: Jon Huntsman, if you would like to come on the show and tell
me that I am full of it and I need to give you a break because you`re
staying in this, because you have a clear path to win it, I will give all
the time that they will allow me to control here on MSNBC to make your
You will have a good time. It will be fun. It will not be hostile.
It will be fair. Come on. My best pitch.
Alex Wagner, MSNBC political analyst – Alex, thanks for being here.
WAGNER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think the pitch is going to work?
WAGNER: Yes, keep mentioning Beefheart. Everyone loves Captain
MADDOW: All right. Excellent, we will be right back. Beefheart –
MADDOW: While he was still saying that he was not running for
president, the most definitive sign from Texas Governor Rick Perry that he
was running, is that he, all of a sudden, started doing stuff that he did
not do before as Texas governor, things like meeting with the prime
minister of Latvia, and meeting with the former president of Pakistan,
Pervez Musharraf. That is not exactly day in the life stuff for a Texas
governor – at least for this Texas governor.
But it is the kind of thing that you do if you`re a presidential
contender and you want to up your worldliness quotient. Now that Governor
Perry is running and trying to keep up the perception that he is grounded
in international affairs, Governor Perry today wrote an op-ed for “The Wall
Street Journal” on a subject of Israel, the man who has been whipping up
crowds by talking about his American state seceding from the Union, who has
floated the idea of quite literally of breaking up the United States of
America now – is now as a presidential candidate lending his sage
international advice to the world`s most delicate tinderbox of a region.
With protesters in Egypt which borders Israel, ransacking the Israeli
embassy, with the Palestinians saying they will ask the U.N. next week for
statehood, with Israel promising grave consequences if the Palestinians do
ask for that – one campaign for president wants you to look at the
delicacy of that situation and think, boy, I wish Rick Perry were handling
While he was president, Jimmy Carter brokered the first agreement by
any Arab country to recognize Israel, that peace treaty between Egypt and
Israel – the Israeli prime minister and Egyptian vice president won the
Nobel Peace Prize for the agreement. The peace treaty is still in effect
but it is under strain now more than 30 years later.
Yesterday, at the Carter Center in Atlanta, I spoke with President
Carter and asked him what he thinks happens next here.
MADDOW: On the issue of Mideast peace –
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes.
MADDOW: – after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt in the Arab
Spring uprising there, have you been distressed to see Egyptians attacking
the Israeli embassy there and the sort of outpouring of upset and hostility
to Israel in post-revolutionary Egypt?
CARTER: Upset but not surprised. When I was in office, we had two
major agreements between Israel and Egypt. One was a Camp David Accords in
September of 1978. It basically dealt with the rights of the Palestinians.
But Israelis agreed for the full application of the United Nations
resolution 242, the prohibition against achieving land as a result of war.
And Israelis agreed to withdraw their military and political entities
from occupied territories and to grant the Palestinians full autonomy.
That was basically the Camp David Accords. And then we followed up that
six months later in the spring of 1979 with a treaty of peace between
Israel and Egypt. A lot of people now meld the two, but they`re completely
And in the last 30 years, the Israelis have not complied with any of
their promises considering Palestinian rights, always drawing from occupied
And, basically, Mubarak has ignored that failure. But he has insisted
on the full observance of a treaty between Egypt and Israel. So, Mubarak
accepted that effect, or that result, of that situation.
The people of Egypt have never done that. They have always insisted
that the Palestinian rights should be on equal basis with the treaty of
peace between Egypt and Israel. And so, it was not a surprise to me that
the demonstrators wanted to see the Israelis removed.
It was a surprise and great disappointment to me that the military
junta that now rules Egypt temporarily, at least, did not defend the
embassy. They should have because there had been a 12-foot wall built
around the Israeli embassy to protect it. And it was torn down, you might
say, brick by brick, with plenty of time for the military to send in
Egyptian troops to protect the embassy. That`s a major setback and a very
tragic thing to happen.
But my prediction to you is that the basic terms of a treaty of peace
between Israel and Egypt will not be adversely affected because the
Egyptians know that one of the best things to ever happen to them is to
have peace with Israel. And Israelis also know that the Egyptian armed
forces were the only major threat to them militarily and that was in four
different wars that existed in the 25 years before I became president.
Syrian, Jordan, the rest of them had no real threat militarily. So, I was
able to help remove that threat to Israel.
So I think it`s so valuable to both Israel and Egypt that the peace
treaty will be preserved and honored by both sides.
But the rights of the Palestinians have not been honored and the
Palestinians have been very deeply disillusioned in the last few years, I
would say, by the two major speeches that President Obama has made: one in
Cairo in 2009 where he said no more settlements – zero settlements. That
sent a wave of jubilation to the Palestinian community.
And the second one was earlier this year, I believe, when he said that
any future peace has got to be predicated on the 1967 borders with by
negotiation. And there, again, the Palestinians said, well, this is what
the United States has always said, it`s what the United Nations said, so
forth. But Israel has rejected both of those premises put forward by
Obama, himself, and the Palestinians now I think in desperation since this
American influence in the Middle East is practically zero now, and have
said we`ll go to the United Nations.
And that`s going to be a price that will evolve the next few days as
the Palestinians ask for recognition for statehood maybe in a Security
Council, almost certainly in the General Assembly. And, of course, the
United States will veto the Security Council and the General Assembly would
probably vote 140-150 nations in favor of Palestinian statehood, which
means that Palestine, if people want to look it up, will have basically the
same rights as the Vatican now.
Not a full member, but the right to participate in an international
forum and international organizations and so forth.
MADDOW: Do you think the United States should support that?
CARTER: I do. I think it would be good for Israel and the United
States to support, to support that – as we supported Israel in 1948 when
they took the same move. And then have a good faith negotiation based on
what the United States policy has always been, that is a 1967 borders, with
the premise that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories.
But that`s a premise I don`t believe Prime Minister Netanyahu is
willing to make, although some of his predecessors, his immediate
predecessor, Olmert, said this is what we need to do.
MADDOW: President Carter, thank you so much for this time. I really
CARTER: Great to be with you. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir.
CARTER: Thank you for coming.
MADDOW: We had a ton of feedback here at the show after showing the
first half of my interview with President Carter. Thank you all for that.
The sections of it that we showed last night and the second half we just
showed now are all posted in sequence online at Maddowblog.com for your
We`ll be right back with the latest from the plane crash news tonight
– a plane crash at an air race in Reno, Nevada. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The unlimited races were going on. On the third
lap, second or third lap, it came up over this hangar that we`re standing
next to. Pulled out of the race and did kind of a mayday as he was going
up. And it finally turned and did a nosedive and then it turned over to
the – in front of the grandstand and did a nosedive all the way down and
went straight down. We saw everything – the plane just splattered. Into
the box seats from what we`ve heard.
REPORTER: And, I mean, when you were seeing this, what was going
there are your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, identify seen this before. Planes pull
out because they have problems and do this little mayday and the fire
trucks come in and they land safely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not tonight. An eyewitness statement from the plane crash
tonight in Reno, Nevada. Again, what we know the basics of World War II
era fighter plane, a P-51 Mustang, crashed into the box seat area in front
of the grandstands, at about 4:30 local time in Reno, 7:30 East Coast Time.
A spokesman from the event calling this a mass casualty situation. We
do not yet have hard numbers in terms of the number of people injured or
indeed dead. The pilot is identified as Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida.
He`s an 80-year-old man. He`s the owner of Leeward air ranch racing team,
a well known racing pilot. His Website says he`s flown more than 120 races
and served as a stunt pilot for numerous movies, including “Amelia” and
In an interview with the “Ocala Star Banner” last year, he described
how he has flown 250 types of planes and has a particular fondness for the
P-51. Quote, “They`re more fun, more speed, more challenge. Speed, speed
and more speed.”
In terms of the event that this happened at, “The Associated Press”
describes it as like a car race in the sky, with planes flying wing tip to
wing tip as low as 50 feet off the sage brush at speeds sometimes
surpassing 500 miles per hour. Pilots follow an oval path around pylons
with distances and speeds depending on the class of aircraft.
NTSB – a former NTSB who we spoke with earlier this hour told us that
there is no other air race exactly like this in the country. In terms of
what we know about injuries and deaths, the person who is the head of the
air racing association that puts on this event said that the pilot was
killed in this crash. That is not hard to believe given the footage that
we have of the actual impact.
In terms of other people killed on the ground, northern Nevada medical
center in Sparks, Nevada – Sparks, Nevada, being a community near Reno,
they said that they have received eight patients injured from the crash,
five of the eight people they have received are in serious condition.
Three of them are in good condition. But there are two other area
hospitals, Renown Health and St. Mary`s Regional Medical Center, that are
also receiving patients from the airfield.
I do not, in front of me, have word from St. Mary`s Regional Medical
if St. Mary has, in fact, put out a patient statement at this point. But
we do know from Renown within the last hour is that two people who they
were treating for injuries as a result of this crash have died of the 22
patients that Renown is treating. They say that nine of those 22 are in
That is what we know right now.
But on the scene is Mackenzie Warren. She is with our KRNV, which is
our NBC affiliate in Reno.
Mackenzie, thanks very much for being with us. Can you give us
anything of an update in terms of what we understand about why this crash
happened and how many people may be affected?
MACKENZIE WARREN, KRNV REPORTER (via telephone): You know, Rachel, I
just got back from speaking with one of the pilots flying in this unlimited
race. You talk about 500 miles per hour, this was the race, the 500 miles
Something went wrong and Mr. Leeward`s plane, the way the pilot
described it to me is that when your prop is going 500 miles an hour in one
direction and something pops, which judging from the pictures, it could
have been the trim tab, that sends your plane in complete tailspin and
downward – it was fast, it was violent – into a crowd of spectators.
They rushed us off the scene very quickly. There were body parts,
flesh, a lot of volunteers.
This is a military event. So a lot of people train in this type of
situation. They jumped into action. The triage here was beyond intense.
You know, the “A.P.” was reporting 75 people were wounded.
For me on the ground, an eyewitness account, I can tell you that`s a
conservative number. There are a lot of people hurt. They`re calling it a
mass casualty. The death toll is really sketchy at this point. We have
another press conference coming up here in seven minutes. We`re going to
get more information that.
But, you know, hundreds of thousands of people pour into the Reno
Stead Airport for this event. The event is canceled. It`s devastated this
From being here all week and reporting, it was lively, exciting and
the mood just switched to somber, tragic, and horrifying day out here in
MADDOW: Mackenzie, what can you tell us about the area, the box seats
that they`re describing as the stands, the spectator area where this plane
appears to have made impact? Who would have been sitting there and how
large a seating area was that?
WARREN: It`s really large seating, Rachel. You know, you know, it`s
right adjacent to the grandstand which seats thousands. These pit boxes
are kind of the primo seats, hundreds of people in there.
We`re starting to get pictures flooding into the newsroom of our
scene, just debris is everywhere. People are scrambling to find out.
You know, we have kids that come here for field trips. We`ve got
military members. We`ve got veterans, families. This is a family event.
A lot of pilots that call it a family out here. And no doubt a lot of
lives lost. But people are really hesitant to go on camera us with, a lot
of open wounds and the details are sketchy at this point.
MADDOW: Mackenzie Warren, thank you for your reporting. I have a
feeling we`ll be coming back to you tonight and we`ll, of course, be
bringing that you press conference live at the top of the hour. Thank you,
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Mike Draper. He`s a spokesman for the
National Championship Air Races, which is running this event.
Mr. Draper, my condolences tonight. Thank you for joining us.
MIKE DRAPER, NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AIR RACES (via telephone): Thank
MADDOW: What can you tell us in terms of the expected toll of this
incident in terms of how the – how the injured are being cared for and how
many people may have been injured in this incident?
DRAPER: Rachael, we – it is a mass casualty incident. There is
protocol in place at the air races puts together with local emergency
personnel and the Nevada National Guard. And that emergency protocol is
I can tell that you all local emergency personnel and National Guard
since the base actually – or the airfield actually is next (ph) a National
Guard base. They all jumped into action immediately. And the casualties
are being taken to hospitals located throughout the area.
As far as the number, we still haven`t been able to confirm a number.
We have heard number reports. But those aren`t coming from us. We don`t
have a number yet. We`re waiting until local emergency personnel, the
ambulance and hospitals can confirm that number. Quite frankly, it
happened so quickly and emergency personnel acted so quickly, we got no
estimate. Other than, we`re pretty confident the numbers that we`re
hearing are pretty exaggerated. We hope to be releasing numbers very
MADDOW: Can you tell White House would have been sitting in the
grandstand area that was hit? We`re hearing it described as sort of box
seats. Would have that been the media, VIPs, any particular group of
people that would have been there?
DRAPER: Sure. There`s a grandstand which is compromise of bleachers
and those sorts of things. In front of it, there is a box seat area. It`s
about three rows.
And, quite honestly, I don`t know how many box – numbers of box seats
there are. But those box seats go to our larger sponsors, people who want
to bring their companies or do corporate partnerships. Each box seat sits
about 15 people.
MADDOW: OK. In terms of – in terms of the management of this event,
Mr. Draper, obviously there have been safety concerns in the past. Four
pilots killed in 2007 and 2008. Are you confident that your association
had done everything possible to make this event safe for spectators and
pilots? Is there anything you could have done that you didn`t do?
DRAPER: Without knowing the cause of the accident, I can tell you
that we work year round on safety. And fans and pilots are foremost
priorities, as can you imagine. This time, I`ll tell you that we thought
through every sort of emergency protocol and safety plan that we possibly
Again, without knowing the cause of the accident, I can`t tell if you
there`s anything else that we could have done. But we`re confident right
now that we had every safety protocol and measure.
Each – we got six classes of airplanes at this airfield. Each class,
in addition to this event being governed and – by the Reno Air Racing
Association, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are both
on site. And we also, each class is dictated by – or is sort of governed
by an elected group of pilots that monitor their safety as well. So, we
have probably five different layers of safety that look at each situation,
each pilot and each plane, and make sure they`re as safe as possible for
MADDOW: Mike Draper, spokesman for the National Championship Air
Races again, my condolences, sir. I know you have a lot of work to do
tonight in getting – keeping people inform on this. Good luck. Thank
DRAPER: I appreciate it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Don Butterfield. He`s the public
information officer of the Northern Nevada Medical Center. There are nine
patients from the crash being treated that hospital.
Mr. Butterfield, thank you very much for your time tonight. What can
you tell us about the number of patients that you have seen, that you
expect to see as the night goes on?
DON BUTTERFIELD, NORTHERN NEVADA MEDICAL CENTER (via telephone):
Well, so far we`ve received nine patients. Five of those are in serious
condition and four of them are in good condition. And that`s all we know
at this time.
MADDOW: In terms of the types of injuries that you`re seeing, are
these shrapnel injuries? Are they burns? What types of injuries are you
BUTTERFIELD: It`s a very dynamic situation. And patients are being
evaluated as we speak. So I would not be able to convey that.
MADDOW: OK. In terms of the emergency response here, we`ve heard
reports that there were dozens of ambulances on site, including some air
ambulances. As far as you know, have all of the injured that are due to
arrive, have they arrived? Or are there sort of walking wounded who you
expect to be bringing themselves in for medical care?
BUTTERFIELD: That`s always a possibility. It`s really undetermined
at this time. It`s a very fluid situation.
MADDOW: Don Butterfield, Northern Nevada Medical Center public
information officer – thank you for your time tonight, sir. Good luck.
BUTTERFIELD: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Joining us on phone now is Greg Feith, a former investigator
with the National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB.
Greg, if you`ve been able to look at any of our footage so far, you`ve
seen that we got a few different angles on the crash. Are you able to tell
anything about what might have happened here by these different angles,
particularly this one we`re showing here about what happened with this
FEITH: Well, it`s evident that the pilot apparently had some sort of
issue, whether it was with the airplane or himself. He was bailing out of
the race itself. And as the video shows, the airport looks like it gets
into a wind rock and then goes uncontrolled.
Again, if it was a mechanical malfunction, it may be very difficult
for investigators, given the fact that the airplane probably impacted at a
speed of 400-plus miles an hour. Now, it was total devastation to the
aircraft. If there was any mechanical problem, it may be very difficult to
And depending on the condition of the pilot, you know – again, it was
a very devastating accident. The coroner may not be able to determine if
there was a medical issue. But that`s going to be key in this
MADDOW: Greg, in terms of trying to help people visualize and
understand what happened here, you described this plane as traveling 400 or
500 miles an hour. It looks like it was going that fast when it crashed.
If people have flown like on a Cessna or like a small passenger commercial
plane, how fast do those planes typically fly so we can imagine that in
relation to the 400 or 500 miles an hour that this plane was going?
FEITH: When you look at commercial air travel, if you`re flying on an
A-320 Airbus or 737, when you`re at cruise altitude, that airplane moving
across the ground at around 500 to 600 miles an hour. So, that`s the speed
that these airplanes are flying at about 100 to 300 feet above the ground
going around the pylons in a closed-circuit course.
MADDOW: That`s incredible.
When you described wing rock, what did you mean by that? You could
see potential in going to a wing rock situation before total loss of
FEITH: If you look at the video, the wings were rolling back and
forth, left and right. And then, the airplane pitched over and went into
the ground. You know, that could be evidence of either a mechanical
malfunction with what we call the roll control. That is there`s two parts
for the wings. And that`s called the ailerons. And they cause the
airplanes to roll. So, when the pilot wants to roll right, one aileron
goes up and one goes down to induce the roll.
There could have been a problem in roll control. There could have
been other kind of mechanical problem. And then, of course, the pilot was
having a medical issue and became paralyzed because of the medical issue
or, you know, wasn`t able to maintain control of the airplane. The
airplane went in at a very high rate of speed. So, it looks like the
engine was still operating at a pretty good power setting at the time of
MADDOW: Greg, you described earlier how this P-51 Mustang aircraft
is, again, a World War II vintage aircraft but heavily modified for the
purposes of racing – and, obviously, that means a lot more power, big
engines so that it can go very fast. The plane would have also had to have
been modified so the pilot could control it at those speeds. And those
would in effect be safety modifications.
What kind of safety modifications and equipment would this have?
FEITH: Well, typically, you know, you want to have as light an
airplane as possible. So the airplane has to meet a specific standard set
forth by the FAA for this type of operation. But when we look at the
controllability, there are going to be certain characteristics that are
designed into the airplane to handle the very high aerodynamic forces.
So rather than having the normal size control wire or control cable
you would use to operate the ailerons or the rudder or the elevator, they
may go to an oversized cable that can handle the stresses. So, the
airplanes are built and redesigned, if you will, to handle the high
aerodynamic forces that are typically induced with high speed flight. And
the folks that work on the airplanes and modify them and build them are
highly experienced at this.
And this particular pilot and this particular race team was very well
known. They put together a very good airplane. And so, whatever the case
was that resulted in this tragic accident, it`s going to be key to find out
if they can identify a mechanical malfunction or failure. Because they`ll
have to look and see is it isolated to this type of airplane or this
particular airplane, or is this a potential systemic issue amongst the air
So, they`re going to have their job cut out as far as trying to piece
together and identify mechanical issues.
MADDOW: We`re speaking with Greg Feith, a former investigator for the
National Transportation Safety Board. I should mention that we are
awaiting any moment now a press conference from the scene at this Reno air
races crash, Stead Airport in Reno, to learn more about, frankly, the
injury toll and death toll associated with this dramatic and horrific crash
of a vintage World War II aircraft into a box seating area on site at this
air crash in the middle of a race.
Greg, obviously when the NTSB is investigating plane crashes, it is
looking for things that will prevent other planes from crashing. But as
you described earlier, this event, this air race in Reno is one of its kind
event. There aren`t other air race events like this in the world, at least
not ones exactly like this.
And so there isn`t much to extrapolate to in terms of this as an event
to be sorted sought that you can prevent this from happening. There aren`t
that many other aircraft like this. When the NTSB arrives on site in the
morning, which we`re told they will, what will they be looking for first, I
FEITH: Well, there are a couple parts to your question as far as an
answer. The NTSB is going to be looking, of course, to determine if there
was a problem with the airplane. And like you said, yes, this is a very
specialized air race. It`s a one of a kind.
However, these airplanes, even though they`re modified, there are a
lot of war birds, airplane that are similar to this that fly in air shows
all over the world. So they`re going to have to try to determine if there
is an issue with the airplane that could be systemic to airplanes that
don`t necessarily fly in air races but they do fly in air shows in front of
large crowds, because we don`t want to have any kind of control issues.
The second part of that question that you asked as far as an answer is
that the FAA is going to have to take a hard look. We know that there`s
been a previous history of accidents, including fatalities over the years
at Reno. And while every one of those pilots, just like a NASCAR team is
trying to mitigate risk when it comes to racing, they`re going to have to
really take a very hard look at is it too far or too out of control? That
is have the airplanes been so highly modified that in an event like this
there was no chance for the pilot to take any kind of corrective action and
prevent this from happening.
And either they`re going to move the show line back, that is where the
spectator sit or they`re going to move the racecourse out which won`t make
it enjoyable for spectators. Or, two, they may just stop the program
MADDOW: Greg Feith, former National Transportation Safety Board
investigator, just invaluable insight to you have here about us tonight,
Greg. Thank you so much for your team.
FEITH: You`re very welcome. Again, we`ve been told that there were
multiple FAA inspectors on site at the time when this plane crash occurred
at the Reno air races. We are told that the NTSB, the National
Transportation Safety Board, their investigators will be arriving in the
morning to try to piece this together.
We are awaiting a press conference from the site of this crash
Joining us now as we await that press conference is Mackenzie Warren
from KRNV, our NBC affiliate in Reno, who was an eyewitness to this
Mackenzie, we spoke with Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks,
Nevada, saying they have seen nine patients. They`ve got five in serious
condition. Renown Health Center says that two people who came to that
center have died. I consider those to be the first two confirmed
fatalities, although the pilot is also presumed dead here.
Do you expect, Mackenzie, that there will be walking wounded? That
there will people who have not yet been treated, who start to seek
treatment in coming hours tonight?
MACKENZIE WARREN, KRNV REPORTER (via telephone): You know, Rachel, I
can tell you that right after this accident, that`s when the triage kicked
into gear. So, we saw a lot of people getting treated on the scene. We
lost track counting ambulances leaving here, setting the death toll of
three, from seeing all the blood and gore – I can`t imagine that this
death toll wouldn`t be climbing. You know, our local area hospitals are
This press conference is just about to start. They`re making an
announcement. The governor, Governor Brian Sandoval, is actually going to
be landing here at Reno Stead. We`re just hearing this over the microphone
Our governor will be coming here to speak with us. It`s a tragedy in
I want to add some things to the sound bite you just played, talk
about these aircrafts are changed and transformed in order to race.
Actually, these jets were grounded this week. Their engines were modified.
The FAA found this was not safe. Actually, one of the pilots was test
flying and said her plane – to a tail fire. That was a decision that led
to the jets being grounded.
So, certainly, we can imagine the FAA will be looking at this. Pylon
to pylon planes going faster than NASCAR in the air.
It`s still a sketchy scene right here. We`re trying to wait for more
details on how many people are hurt, how many casualties, and, of course,
what caused the plane to go down.
MADDOW: Mackenzie, we are awaiting the start of that press
conference. We hear it will be soon. If you`re answering me and the press
conference starts, feel free to just throw it back to me and we will carry
the press conference live here on MSNBC.
In terms of the scene there and what the response has been like, would
you describe it as orderly, as if there was an emergency plan that went
into action in a way that seemed to address the situation in a coherent
WARREN: You know what, it was orderly. It was chaotic the first
couple minutes. And then it did go very swiftly. There were clearly
people in charge, a lot of military here. So many people knowing what they
Responders were very quick. There are a lot of the doctors and nurses
on staff that immediately jumped into action.
So, I wasn`t chaotic. But certainly the mood was fearful. It was
very unknown. People had different vantage points, saw different things,
wondered if they knew someone who was in that pit when they went down in a
I think there`s a bit of confusion, but I would say that it was an
orderly response overall.
MADDOW: I don`t – I don`t want you to get too specific if you do not
want. But one of the things that I`m trying to grasp and try to help our
viewers grasp is the number of people in total who may have been directly
in the path of this incident. The spokesperson for the air racing
association describing a three-tiered area of box seats, each box seat
holding about 15 people.
How large a geographic area were people – did you see injured people
in after the event? Were people thrown clear of the area or was it a
WARREN: You know, it`s hard to tell because I`m judging it by
pictures now. That is warping my memory from what I initially saw. But
the pictures look like a concert, you know, a packed field, a packed area
of spectators watching this race that was covered in debris and flood,
flesh, and parts of this plane.
I mean, this was a fast race. It was a highlight of the race, 500
miles per hour. We can only guess that`s how fast the pilot was racing
when he went down. But it was pretty intense scene – Rachel.
MADDOW: The pilot we know is being identified as Jimmy Leeward of
Ocala, Florida. He`s the owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team. “The
Associated Press” is describing him as a well known racing pilot. His Web
site describing him as having flown in more than 120 races. He`s also
served as a stunt pilot in numerous movies, including the movie “Amelia”
and “The Cloud Dancer.”
“The Associated Press” digging up an interview that he did with the
“Ocala Star Banner” last week describing how he has flown 250 types of
planes, but that he has a particular fondness for the P-51 Mustang. The P-
51 is the plane that he appears to have crashed in tonight.
His quote to the “Ocala Star Banner” last year about the P-51, quote,
“They`re more fun. More speed, more challenge. Speed, speed, and more
Again, as Mackenzie has been describing, this really is – you can
think of this as sort of a car race in the sky, a car race involving
airplanes. The planes fly close to each other. They also fly at very,
very low altitude, as low as 50 feet off the ground, at speeds that
sometimes do surpass 500 miles per hour.
As I described, this was a vintage aircraft but a highly, highly
modified one. Speaking with an NTSB investigator earlier, describing the
planes as modified not only for speed but for the additional control that
the pilot will need over an aircraft that is modified to go that fast.
When you have engines that big and that much power packed into these types
of planes, you need to change the pilot`s controls to allow for
maneuverability just so they can be flown.
So, this is a highly modified aircraft. The pilots following in this
race an oval path around pylons – the distance and speeds depending on the
class of aircraft.
We have a bit of tape here from a woman who was an eyewitness to this
event. Somebody says that she has been to a number of air races and seen
aircraft have to pull out of races but not like the way that this ended
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The unlimited races were going on. On the third
lap, second or third lap, it came up over this hangar that we`re standing
next to. Pulled out of the race and did kind of a mayday as he was going
up. And it finally turned and did a nosedive and then it turned over to
the – in front of the grandstand and did a nosedive all the way down and
went straight down. We saw everything – the plane just splattered into
the box seats from what we`ve heard.
REPORTER: And, I mean, when you were seeing this, what was going
there are your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, identify seen this before. Planes pull
out because they have problems and do this little mayday and the fire
trucks come in and they land safely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just came up. He was behind Voodoo, wasn`t he?
I`m not sure. He was coming up towards the grand stands. And all of
a sudden, I heard a pop – a little pop. And then it just the airplane
went straight up. There was a bit of a flutter and it went straight up and
kind of rolled over a little bit, and then nosed over and went straight
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Eyewitness reports to tonight`s plane crash at the Reno air
races. Again, what we know at this hour is a vintage World War II aircraft
P-51 Mustang, heavily modified, not only to go fast, but to allow the pilot
to control it at high speeds.
The pilot who was presumed dead, obviously, after the scale of this
impact was an 80-year-old pilot, but a very, very, very experienced pilot
who had been a stunt pilot in movies and ran a respected air racing team
called the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team. His name is Jimmy Leeward and
was – he was a real estate developer based in Ocala, Florida.
In terms of casualties on the ground, we do have a report from one
Nevada health center that two of the people there as injured persons after
this crash have died. That Renown Health Center has seen 22 patients in
all, nine in critical condition. Again, they are reporting two deaths,
plus the presumed death of the pilot in this case.
At this hour, we await an imminent press conference on scene from
Stead Air Base in Reno, Nevada, again, the site of tonight`s crash. As
that happens tonight, we will bring that you to here live here on MSNBC.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Breaking news at this hour, the national championship air
races is an event in Reno, Nevada, that every year draws thousands of
people in September to watch various military and civilian planes race.
It`s like NASCAR but in the sky. And today, what has happened at the
national championship air races in Reno, Nevada, is being described as a
mass casualty incident.
A vintage World War II plane flown by an 80-year-old pilot, a P-51
Mustang, flown by 80-year-old Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida, crashed into
a grandstand area. There were two areas of seating that we can see from
the footage that we have from the site tonight. A larger grandstand area
from which we have – from which the footage we`re showing you tonight was
taken from handheld camera and a different area of box seats. It was the
box seat area that appears to have been directly impacted by this plane.
The latest dispatch from “The Associated Press,” we have a description
from some eyewitnesses to the crash. I will warn you – this is a little
bit graphic. I will tell what you the eyewitnesses are describing.
Maureen Higgins (ph) of Alabama, she`s being coming to the show for 16
years, she said the pilot was on his third lap when he lost control. Ms.
Higgins says she was sitting about 30 yards away from the crash. She
watched as the man in front of her, so also about 30 yards from the crash
started bleeding after a piece of debris from the crash hit him in the
Quote from Ms. Higgins, this is gory, forgive me, was, quote, “I saw
body parts and gore like you wouldn`t believe it. I`m talking an arm, a
leg. The alive people were missing body parts. I`m not kidding you. It
was gore, unbelievable gore.”
Again, the pilot in this case, Jimmy Leeward, 80 years old of Ocala,
Florida, a person involved in real estate, real estate developer but also a
very experienced air racing pilot and a stunt pilot for movies, he is
considered to be among the dead. As of right now, we have three confirmed
dead. Renown Medical Center nearby the crash site confirmed that two
people who they have seen after this event tonight have died in addition to
A spokeswoman for the Regional Emergency Medical tells the associated
press tonight that emergency crews and there appear to have been dozens of
ambulances on scene taking people to local hospitals, emergency crews took
a total of 56 victims to three area hospitals. Those are the 56 people
that went in ambulances, who went in emergency response vehicles.
The spokesperson for the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority
also says that in addition to those 56, a number of other people were
transported away from the crash site and presumably to hospitals who were
in private vehicles.
So, those are – those people who are transported by private vehicle
are not being included in this count of 56 people transported to hospital
already. Of the 56 people who were transported at the time – they were
transported, at the time they were put into ambulances, of those 56, 15
were considered to be in critical condition, 13 in serious condition and 28
people considered to have non-serious or nonlife threatening injuries.
Again, the total death toll confirmed at this point is three. That
may or may not rise – obviously, the hope is that does not rise. But
there are a number of very seriously injured people because of this crash.
The national championship air races again in Reno, Nevada. This is an
annual event. There have been crashes in recent years at this event in
which pilots were killed. But not ones in which bystanders were killed. A
weatherman on site from KRNV-TV, Jeff Martinez, was just outside the air
race grounds at the time of the crash as an eyewitness. He says that he
saw the plane veer to the right and then it just augured straight into the
We`ve been able to be joined tonight and we`re lucky to have him, by
Greg Feith, who is a former director of the National Transportation Safety
Board, which is, of course, the government agency that investigates crashes
Greg, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate having you here.
FEITH: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: In terms of air races and air shows and other types of events
like this in which airplanes are doing things, you don`t see them do in
typical daily life, and which there are people on the ground watching, what
are the other types of incidents that have been more typical in terms of
safety incidents at these events? This obviously is not a – this is a
very, very a typical event.
FEITH: Unlike the Reno air race itself, a lot of the general public
typically goes to see an air show, either at an airport or military base.
And you see a variety of different types of flying, from aerobatic flying
with small single-engine airplanes, to the military formation flying with
the Blue Angels and the Thunderstorms. And that happens typically around
There are other air show teams, military and nonmilitary, that
perform. And in the recent past, we`ve seen and we`ve had unfortunately
experienced accidents involving a variety of different types of airplanes
that have crashed into the air show crowd. One was very notable in Germany
where we had a military team that was performing. They had a problem with
an airplane. And it`s unfortunately went into the show crowd and killed a
number of folks.
We`ve had a couple of military airplanes at some of the Air Force
bases around where because the airplane was being flown as low level and
they had a problem. The pilot was able to bail out. But the airplane then
goes uncontrolled into various parts of the surrounding area. And,
unfortunately, a couple have gone into houses.
So, you know, it`s not – people shouldn`t be fearful of it. But that
is just the inherent risk with air shows and air racing.
But again, the government not only here in the United States but
around the world and the air show community does a lot to mitigate the
risk. This is just an unfortunate accident which needs to be identified as
– from a cause standpoint so if there was a systemic problem or an issue
that could identified and safety can be enhanced, then, of course, that`s
going to be the purpose of the investigation.
MADDOW: Greg Feith, former NTSB investigator, we`re awaiting a press
conference on-site at the Reno air crash. Stay with us here on MSNBC.
Again, what we got right now in terms of a casualty count is we know
at least 56 people were transported from the crash site to local hospitals,
at least 56 people. I say “at least” because the number 56 is the number
of people transported in emergency vehicles and official vehicles like
ambulances. And there were dozens of ambulances and indeed we heard air
ambulances on site to take people to medical facilities. Fifty-six is the
number of people who went in vehicles like that. Additional people went to
seek medical care or who left the site visibly wounded in private vehicles.
So we expect that the number of injured will rise. At this point, the
number of confirmed deaths in this incident is three, that includes the
pilot – an 80-year-old very experienced stunt pilot flying a modified
vintage aircraft at this air racing event, an experienced air racer as well
as being an experienced stunt pilot. He is among the three dead.
We do not have identities for the other two people who are confirmed
by local hospitals who have been killed tonight in this incident in Reno.
We don`t have identities. They are telling us ahead that it is from Renown
Health Center nearby the air crash site where they have identified two
additional people killed.
At this point, we`re awaiting a press conference with the latest
details from the Stead Air Base in the Reno area. We had one very informal
press conference early we are officials from the racing organization that
puts on the Reno air race.
Again, minimal information available at this time, even in with the
advantage of having reporters on scene who were eyewitnesses to what
happened in the immediate aftermath, it`s been harder to get exact details
on what happened.
Joining us now is Deputy Armando Avina with the Washoe County
Deputy, thank you very much for joining us. What can you update us on
in terms of the toll here and what`s happening in terms of the emergency
DEPUTY ARMANDO AVINA, WASHOE COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICE (via telephone):
Well, thank you for having us. Absolutely, this is a tragic accident that
happened here in Reno, Nevada, at 4:30 p.m.
What I can tell you is that this is where I call the local first
responders responded to the call. We don`t have actual numbers. We do
understand that officials from the NTSB, FAA, local law enforcement are
here to assist with the investigation. Numbers – we do know people were
injured and transported.
But at this time we are awaiting the arrival of Governor Sandoval who
is going to stand by at the press conference happens here in the next few
minutes. So, that is the delay at this time.
MADDOW: At this point, you`re awaiting to start the press conference.
The governor is on scene?
AVINA: Yes, he has – his office informed us that he will be
attending the press conference. And that is what we`re waiting for.
MADDOW: In terms of the emergency response here, is there – is there
a plan in place for responding in the event of emergencies at this air race
event? Obviously, there have been fatalities at this event in the past,
not spectator fatalities, but pilot fatalities.
Is this something that regionally there is some sort of coordinated
emergency response plan?
AVINA: Absolutely. I mean we`re talking now, it is a critical
incident. These people train for this. We hope it would never happen.
But now that it has happened, the people are trained. The people are aware
of what they need to do. They`re staying professional.
Bu, absolutely, this is a tragic event that happened here within our
county of Washoe County. And, you know, the people that came to enjoy this
event. It is tragic experience for a lot of people.
So, at this time, yes, we`re trying to get the numbers to see how many
people we do have that are deceased, how many people are injured, how many
are critical to moderate. Whoever was here and witnessed the event, it`s
going to stay with them for a long time.
MADDOW: Deputy Avina, when an incident is described as a mass
casualty incident, one of the things that springs to mind is whether there
is adequate – whether there is adequate health response available.
Are the local hospitals equipped and able to deal with dozens of
people seeking traumatic injury care at once? Is there – have you heard
any reports from hospitals, for example, of a need for donated blood or for
any other resources that they will be calling from outside the immediate
AVINA: Absolutely, we do. We have three local hospitals here. We
have our Remsa (ph) units that were able to respond. We also have the Care
Flight Helicopter that was able to respond. First responders responded
timely. It was absolutely amazing the way the response came and the way
that we were able to get in and get people treated, examined.
So the way we all came together – it was a disaster that we have
planned. It`s only through training that we`re able to accomplish this
when it does occur.
In this case, we`re sad to inform that it has happened, but we were
prepared. And those people that did get the services in a timely manner.
MADDOW: Sheriff County Deputy Armando Avina, thank you for taking
time to update us, sir. Appreciate your time tonight. Good luck.
AVINA: You`re very welcome.
MADDOW: Joining us now on the phone is reporter Andrew Del Greco from
our Reno affiliate, KRNV TV. Andrew, we spoke with you last hour. Are you
able to update us any further on the emergency response or on the toll?
ANDREW DEL GRECO, KRNV TV: You know, we are waiting, as you know, for
Governor Brian Sandoval to speak. We might be getting some more
information on that.
You just heard from Deputy Avina about the response from all of the
law enforcement officials. I`ve been talking to several pilots here,
actually very impressed with the way law enforcement did respond. That
all, of course, goes to the training that they do.
At this point, the confirmed dead I believe is at three, from what
we`re being told. And hopefully we`ll get more numbers of casualties very
soon. I also heard you mention the hospitals.
Yeah, word is that the hospitals have called in extra personnel.
They`re all stacked up. There are three hospitals in the Reno area. We`re
hearing that they`re asking for blood donors right now. From what I`m
hearing, type O Blood is what they`re looking for right now.
But no doubt this is an unprecedented incident that will go down in
history here in Northern Nevada.
MADDOW: The regional hospitals that are involved here that we know
of, Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks, Nevada, Renoun (ph) Health
Center and St. Mary`s Regional Medical all receiving patients from the
airfield. Northern Nevada Medical Center having received nine patients.
Renoun says they have received 22. Renoun is the health center that is
confirming two spectator fatalities in addition to the pilot fatality.
We do not yet have a patient count from St. Mary`s Regional, at least
if there has been on yet. At this point, I do not know of it.
Andrew, in terms of the way that this has unfolded on the ground,
there are some reports that in addition to the 56 people who were
transported by official emergency vehicles, there`s a number of people who
may have sought help and left to receive medical treatment in private
vehicles. Have you been seeing walking wounded or other people not being
treated in hospitals, but maybe taking care of themselves in some way?
DEL GRECO: No, there was a report from Mike Townsend (ph), who is the
head of the National Air Races, that there were some people who were taken
to hospitals possibly maybe by the people they were with and then those
people had since left the hospital. I did not see any walking wounded, so
to speak. Just arriving on scene and seeing a few dozen ambulances leaving
Not sure about any of the walking wounded. I can tell that you there
are a lot of adults, of course, who come out to this race. But in talking
to more people, there are also several children that were here as well.
So, you know, the first thought that comes to mind, of course, any kind of
casualty is really depressing, frankly. We`re hoping that there won`t be
any young casualties as well.
Just from talking to some people that are just all ages here, even
young people. So I guess we`ll find out at some point a little more on the
casualties or injuries.
MADDOW: Andrew, is the scene emptying out as emergency response crews
have sort of finished their work, in terms of getting the injured to
safety? Or is the scene still getting more crowded, as people are staging
there for the press conference and other things?
DEL GRECO: Yeah, right now, you have most of the Stead Airport has
cleared out. All the spectators have since left. Of course, frankly, it
was a big mess as far as traffic leaving the Stead Airport a few hours ago.
Right now, it is really just the different media personnel, the different
law enforcement officials, all of us waiting for Governor Brian Sandoval to
But really I would say three dozen people here in this media center,
kind of in a corner of the airport. But the rest of the airport really not
a lot going on. A lot of people have since gone home tonight.
MADDOW: Andrew Del Greco from KRNV, our NBC affiliate in Reno,
awaiting this press conference with us. Andrew, thank you very much.
We`ll be back with you.
Again, we`re awaiting a press conference on scene at Reno Stead
Airport. Nevada`s governor, Brian Sandoval, is due on scene in moments.
We just heard from sheriff`s deputy from Washoe County that once Governor
Sandoval is there, they will start the press conference to give us the
It is cold and it is gory, but it is true. One of the things we`re
waiting on right now, to understand the scope of this disaster in Reno, is
the number of people who were killed and injured. We do not have exact
numbers on that right now. The number of confirmed dead at this point is
three. The only of those person who has been identified is the pilot, the
80-year-old pilot of this aircraft, Jimmy Leeward, 80 years old, of Ocala
In terms of the pilot – in terms of plane that Mr. Leeward was
flying, it`s a P-51 mustang. This particular plane is called the Galloping
Ghost. The statistics available from Leeward Air Ranch Racing, which was
his company, tell us that the flight – the pilot – excuse me, the plane
was 32 feet, three inches long, the a wing span of just under 29 feet.
It weighs 7,600 pounds. The single engine in this is a V-12 Packard
V-1650 liquid-cooled super charged engine, 3,800 horsepower, which is a lot
of horsepower for a small plane. Maximum speed of 550 miles per hour at
This is a plane heavily, heavily modified to be able to fly not only
at race speed, but in race condition. Again, this event at the Reno Air
Races is – it`s been described tonight as sort of NASCAR in the sky. The
planes – as you see here, these are not planes in trouble. These are
planes participating in the race, this very, very low altitude and a very
high speed. They go in a sort of an oval track in the sky around pylons.
In this case, the plane that crashed described as having experienced a
bit of a wing roll possibly, and then it pulled straight up. And then
observers describe watching in horror as it nose dived and came down at
almost a 90-degree vertical angle to the ground, crashing into box seats of
We await a full toll of the injured and killed and the press
conference from Reno Stead Airport tonight. Stay with us here on MSNBC.
MADDOW: Breaking news continues this hour, as three people are
confirmed dead and at least 56 injured, potentially as high as 75 injured.
The rough numbers on injuries are due to the fact that nobody has given us
a concrete total on them. We are getting specific totals of injured from
those transported to hospitals, from the individual hospitals, and from
observers giving an estimated number.
The incident is an air crash. A plane, a small, World War II era
vintage aircraft, a P-51 Mustang, modified for racing purposes, that
crashed into a seating area at the Reno Air Races. At this point, what we
know about the pilot, who is one of the deceased, is that his name is Jimmy
Leeward of Ocala, Florida, an 80-year-old pilot.
He is owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team, a well known racing
pilot, a man who says that he has flown 250 different types of planes in
his career, has flown in more than 120 races, has been a stunt pilot a
numerous movies. The P-51, he stated in a recent interview last year, was
his favorite aircraft to fly. He at least had a particular fondness for
this P-51 aircraft which crashed today.
This particular one is called the Galloping Ghost. As modified for
racing, this aircraft is 32 feet long. The wing span is 28 feet, 11
inches. It`s about 14 feet high. It weighs 7,600 pounds.
It is a single engine V-12 Packard, liquid cooled, supercharged
engine. Horsepower about 3,800. Maximum speed of 550 miles per hour.
That maximum speed is given for a height of 5,000 feet. This aircraft was
clearly not flying at 5,000 feet before it started to have trouble and then
The type of race that this was in is relatively low altitude race – a
low altitude race in which aircraft are circling, or flying oval shaped
laps. Very exciting race for spectators, obviously, because of the very
high speed of the aircraft, combined with their very low altitude.
Joining us now, once again, is Greg Feith, a former NTSB investigator.
Actually, I should interrupt myself here, because what we`re going to be
able to go to right now, I hope, is the press conference from Stead
Airfield in Reno, including Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.
We`re going to this live right now in Reno. You`re watching MSNBC as
we continue our breaking news coverage of the air disaster at the Reno Air
MIKE HOUGHTON, PRES. AND CEO, RENO AIR RACING ASSOCIATION: I`m sorry
it`s taken so long to get back out to you a little late. As you can tell,
we`ve had a lot of people that we`ve gotten together. And we`ve been
discussing other elements of this tragedy, so we can move forward.
First of all, our hearts go out to all of the families, the fans,
those that were injured today. We`re still working on some of those
issues, as well, as well as you can imagine. The – give you a couple
The NTSB is taking over the site, the investigation, and the release
of specific numbers in different categories. I will say that we had a
total of –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty four.
HOUGHTON: – fifty four that were engaged and injuries. They`ve all
been transported. The hospitals are providing some information as they see
fit. But of those numbers, those are just the ones that were injured and
transported. We do not have a final count as far as the number of
And the NTSB has – as I say, have taken it over. They will be
releasing those numbers as they have them, along with the medical examiner.
There are some that have been deceased.
Some people`s status has changed from the time they left the field.
I do want to clarify and clear up one thing that I misspoke. Jimmy
Leeward would be really mad at me. He was only 74. All his medical
records and everything were up to date, spot on. And Jimmy was a very
experienced and talented, qualified pilot.
The family process is still moving along. I`m not certain if they
will hold a public memorial. I`m speaking, as best I can, for knowing the
grief that they`re going through and knowing them personally, that they
will probably not want it very public. They`re going to want to come to
some personal closure with friends and their folks.
So timing and where – I`m not positive as to what is going to take
place. We are working on getting together a more public memorial that has
– actually, the air race is doing that.
We`re all devastated by this tragedy. And we`re doing everything we
can to move along and communicate and work with the folks that are directly
and adversely affected by this.
That`s about all I`ve got for you right now. I wish I could tell you
more. I don`t know a whole lot more. I will take some questions if you`d
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many are in critical conditions?
HOUGHTON: I don`t have that specific number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many confirmed casualties?
HOUGHTON: I don`t have that specific number that I`m allowed to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the plane flying too close to spectators?
HOUGHTON: No, the plane was flying on its course. Speculation has
gone on a different – a number of different areas as to what took place.
Different people see different things. But there appear to be some – an
air flight problem with the aircraft that caused it to go out of control.
And we all know what the end result was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does this mean for the air race this is
year and the years to come?
HOUGHTON: This year our board is all in 100 percent concurrence that
in spite of the families` wishes that we continue with the event for this
weekend, we`re going to choose to close it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in years to come, what do you think?
HOUGHTON: We`re going to take one day at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you say the NTSB will remain here at the
scene, does that mean that it is going to be closed? Will this be closed
to all air traffic?
HOUGHTON: The airport is closed to all air traffic. We are hopeful
to have some information regarding outbound traffic by tomorrow morning.
There are a lot of aircraft that are here that would like to leave, I have
no doubt, especially since the event is canceled.
So they`re going to remain on site until they finish their work.
They`re very thorough. They`re going to work at their schedule.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea how long it will take? Weeks? Days?
HOUGHTON: You know, it really depends. I couldn`t speak for how long
and how fast they`re going to work. They`re just going to do their job and
finish it. They do have someone coming in from Washington who is a board
member. And their team then will lead the communications process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe this was a mechanical issue?
HOUGTON: That`s what I`m hearing. The best knowledge that we`ve got
– we haven`t had a chance to look at or see any photographs in order to
begin analyzing it. The NTSB is going to capture anything that we have
access to, to specifically try and identify it. What I`m telling you is
what hearsay has flown forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike, this isn`t the first deadly crash at the
air races. How has the response tailored to today, knowing that you guys
have been there before?
HOUGHTON: We`ve had different – every incident is different. What
we try and do each year is to go through a mass casualty exercise as an
organization. We do that every two years. And we set up different
scenarios that we work on those processes.
From the standpoint of everything that we should have done after the
incident took place, Washoe County, Reno, the entire community came
together and did a great job, in the most professional way possible.
If you look at the timing numbers, it was incredible. In 62 minutes
from the time the incident took place, it was secured. That`s remarkable
when you look at the level of the mass casualty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the body of the pilot been recovered,
removed from the scene?
HOUGHTON: I don`t have that information yet. And his wife`s asked me
the same thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We noticed that about 45 minutes after this, a
lot of planes headed south. Was that coincidental? Were planes being told
to go someplace else? Or do you know anything about that?
HOUGHTON: Any planes that were scheduled to come to here, that were
going to come in, are always rerouted. And they were rerouted probably to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the first time a crash has involved
HOUGHTON: Yes, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you clarify exactly where the plane hit, which
part of the grandstand?
HOUGHTON: It was not on the grand stands. It was on the tarmac, in
the area where we have box seats, a little bit east of center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going forward, do you have any idea whether
people will remain seated there? Or is that something you`ll look at in
the coming years?
HOUGHTON: That`s way too far in advance for us to look at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you talking to the pilots that were also in
this heat, that maybe were behind, ahead? Are they adding any insights to
what went on?
HOUGHTON: We haven`t gotten any feedback from them as yet. But we`re
having a meetings with – (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow to discuss a number of these
types of issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about what kind of guy Jimmy was,
what he meant to the air racing community?
HOUGHTON: He was a close personal friend. Well liked. Jimmy was
Jimmy. Great guy, great family man. Very active in aviation, member of
the board of the Experiment Aircraft Association. Did a lot of stunt
flying for movies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had he ever been an airline pilot or military
HOUGHTON: I`m not sure of his military background. He was not a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s flown in the races before. Do you know how
HOUGHTON: Since `75 was his first race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe the plane more, what it looks
HOUGHTON: Just take a look at the program. It is a P-51 base. It`s
flown here a number of times in the past. They prepared the airplane to
bring it back this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an estimate of how many spectators
were here today?
HOUGHTON: You know, I apologize. I haven`t gotten that number at
all. I haven`t had a chance to see those numbers. It was a very good
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many can it hold? How many typically are
HOUGHTON: In the grand stands, we can hold about 10,000 – in our
permanent grandstands, over 10,000. In the temporary grandstands, 300 to
400 down in the box seat area.
And then numerous counts for two miles along the (INAUDIBLE). We have
the capability of holding 60,000 to 75,000 people here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: – scrambling that knew they had family here at
the races. Anyone been reported missing, a chance that that 54 could go
HOUGHTON: We have gotten some calls from people around the world.
This is an international event. And we want to provide the best possible
contact information, so we can give them information about people that
they`re looking for. Washoe County Emergency Operation Center is
establishing a phone number. And I`m kind of hoping that somebody whispers
it in my ear very shortly and we`ll ask you to please pass that number out
in all your reports, so that they have a central point now that they can
It`s manned by professionals that are equipped to gather the
information and then disseminate the information and work through the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was part of his family here today? Did they
witness the crash?
HOUGHTON: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many members of the family?
HOUGHTON: I`m not sure how many were here. Jimmy`s got a pretty good
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike, this is a danger of sports. These planes
fly at high speed. Can you talk about the acceptance of the risk that the
pilots take when they get in these planes and fly every year?
HOUGHTON: Every race pilot understands the risks. They are perhaps
the best pilots in the entire world. They`re – most of them are very
skilled and very experienced at doing this. You take aviation, aviation –
in flying an airplane, there are certain risks just in taking off and
When you add the other dimension of racing, it`s – it`s a fast sport.
And it`s not unlike Indianapolis or NASCAR.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m trying to understand how so many people got
injured. Having not seen the crash myself, did the plane continue to move
along after it hit? Do you understand what –
HOUGHTON: I don`t know. I haven`t heard that. It – you can just
imagine something as it impacts, it`s going to scatter. And this is an
open – kind of an open seating area that has convention type – the boxes
will hold up to 15 people in each box. It is fairly dense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you heard from anyone that he tried to avoid
hitting spectators at the end?
HOUGHTON: I`ve heard that. But I haven`t seen that or confirmed
that. If it was in Jimmy`s power, he would have done everything he
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was a safety worker – (INAUDIBLE) –
HOUGHTON: Here we go. We`ll just take it firsthand. The number for
the families to call is –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 211.
HOUGHTON: Locally. How about from out of state? Do we have that?
So 211 locally is the local number to call. That will go right into
the emergency center.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was – what was his safety record? Are you
aware of his record as a pilot and his health?
HOUGHTON: Tip top health. Medical records are all in order. All of
his medical certificates to fly were in order. I don`t recall any incident
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard some speculation that this could be the
last air races, given that the changes to insurance policy, I guess. Do
you have any comment to that?
HOUGHTON: I really don`t. It`s too soon. It`s speculation at this
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memorial tomorrow is not public?
HOUGHTON: I think on behalf of the family, that would be best. I`m
not sure if their timing is going to change or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is ending the air races something that the board
will consider, though, in light of this accident today?
HOUGHTON: Just as everything that we do, we look at it from A to Z.
We have an incredible board that looks at all the options. And it`s not
just us. There`s a rather large race community. And we will talk to the
race classes and the pilots. And we`ll evaluate what we do tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much money do these air races bring in for the
local economy over here?
HOUGHTON: The local economy is – between 85 million dollars for the
week. So it`s a significant contribution to our local community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the normal flight path over this seating area?
HOUGHTON: No, there is absolutely no flight path that goes anywhere
near the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the plane veered off course then after it lost
HOUGHTON: That`s what I`ve been told, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you witness the crash yourself?
HOUGHTON: I did not. I was doing something that I had to do, which
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know his age, the pilot`s age?
HOUGHTON: Jimmy was 74.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will you do another press conference?
HOUGHTON: Let me seek council. It is going to be driven off the
NTSB. Once we get counsel from them as far as what is our latitude and
what they wish us to do, we`ll be in a better position. And hopefully our
folks will get a press release out to inform me on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they here already, the NTSB?
HOUGHTON: They`re on site anyway. We have a three-man team here –
or a three person team. And the actual lead representative from the NTSB
is dispatched from Washington whenever there is an incident that involves
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So more are coming?
HOUGHTON: There`s definitely only one we know of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay.
MADDOW: Press conference tonight at Reno Stead Airport, which is now
closed to traffic. The air race is canceled obviously there, after
disaster tonight in which at least 54 people were injured, at least three
people were killed. Mike Houghton speaking at the press conference here
tonight. He is president and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association.
He`s flanked, you saw there, there by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.
Again, the totals now, one dead on scene, the pilot of the vintage World
War II aircraft that crashed into the box seats at the Reno Air Races. Two
dead at Renoun health center; 54 additional people, other than those two
who died at Renoun Health Center – 54 additional people transported to
Jimmy Leeward, the pilot of this plane, the confirmed death that we
have a name for. Not 80 years old as reported earlier erroneously, but
rather 74 years old. Described as in good health, with up to date medical
records. A very experienced stunt pilot and air racing pilot. Owner of
the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team.
The plane, we were told, was flying on its course. It was not off
course. The pilot`s family, sadly, was on scene and saw the crash. Mr.
Houghton tonight saying it appears to have been a problem with the
aircraft, but we do not know.
The box seat area that the plane crashed into has a capacity of 300 to
400 people. We don`t know how many people were sitting there at the time
of the crash.
Two local notes, in case you`re in the Reno area and you are watching
us, if you need local information in term of missing persons, the local
number in the Reno area to call is an information number, 211. Also in the
Reno area, they are looking for blood donations at local health centers.
As is the case in mass casualty events, it is particularly important if
you`re Type O blood, universal donor, to donate blood in the Reno area
Again, plane crash into the crowd at this Reno, Nevada air race
tonight. Continuing breaking news and developments as we learn more. Stay
with us here at MSNBC through the night.
Thanks for being with us.
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