Officials said six people were killed when two historic military planes collided and crashed to the ground during a Dallas air show Saturday afternoon.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Sunday, “According to our Dallas County Medical Examiner, there are a total of 6 fatalities from yesterday’s Wings over Dallas air show incident,” He stated that authorities are still working to identify the victims.
Emergency crews rushed to the crash site at Dallas Executive Airport, which is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from downtown Dallas. News footage from the scene showed the planes’ crumpled wreckage in a grassy area inside the airport’s perimeter. According to Dallas Fire-Rescue, there were no reported injuries among those on the ground.
Anthony Montoya witnessed the collision of the two planes.
“I simply stood there. I was completely taken aback and in disbelief “Montoya, 27, went to the air show with a friend. “Everyone in the room was gasping. Everyone was sobbing uncontrollably. Everyone was taken aback.”
The number of people inside each plane was not specified by officials, but Hank Coates, president of the company that put on the airshow, said one of the planes, a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, typically has a crew of four to five people. The other is a single-pilot P-63 Kingcobra fighter plane.
According to Coates of Commemorative Air Force, which also owned the planes, there were no paying customers on board. He explained that their aircraft are flown by highly trained volunteers, many of whom are retired pilots.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the National Transportation Safety Board had taken control of the crash scene, with assistance from local police and fire.
Johnson said on Twitter, “The videos are heartbreaking,”
The planes collided and crashed around 1:20 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The accident happened during the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas display.
Victoria Yeager, the widow of famed Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and a pilot herself, attended the show as well. She didn’t see the crash, but she did notice the burning wreckage.
“It was pulverized,” Yeager, 64, of Fort Worth, said.
“We were just hoping they had all gotten out, but we knew they didn’t,” she said of the passengers.
The B-17, a mainstay of American air power during WWII, is a massive four-engine bomber used in daylight raids against Germany. During the war, Soviet forces primarily used the Kingcobra, a US fighter plane. According to Boeing, most B-17s were scrapped at the end of WWII, and only a few remain today, mostly on display at museums and air shows.
Several social media videos showed the fighter plane flying into the bomber, causing them to crash to the ground and igniting a large ball of fire and smoke.
“It was really horrific to see,” said Aubrey Anne Young, 37, of Leander, Texas, who witnessed the crash. Her children were with their father inside the hangar when it happened. “I’m still trying to make sense of it.”
On a video Young posted to her Facebook page, a woman next to her can be heard crying and screaming hysterically.
For years, air show safety has been a concern, particularly with older military aircraft. In 2011, a P-51 Mustang crashed into spectators in Reno, Nevada, killing 11 people. A bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2019, killing seven people. The NTSB stated at the time that it had investigated 21 accidents involving World War II-era bombers since 1982, resulting in 23 deaths.
According to the event’s website, Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s Premier World War II Airshow,” The show was scheduled for Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 11-13, and guests were expected to see more than 40 World War II-era aircraft. The “bomber parade” and “fighter escorts” featuring the B-17 and P-63 were among the flying demonstrations on Saturday afternoon.
Arthur Alan Wolk is a Philadelphia aviation attorney who spent 12 years flying in air shows. Wolk told The Associated Press on Sunday that after watching the air show video and hearing the maneuvers described as “bombers on parade,” the P-63 pilot violated the basic rule of formation flying.
Wolk explained, “He went belly up to the leader,” “This makes it difficult for him to judge distance and position. When you cannot see who you are supposed to be in formation with, the risk of collision is very high, and this type of join up is not permitted.”
He continued, “I am not blaming anyone, and air shows, pilots, and aircraft that fly in them are all safe to the greatest extent possible. Air shows are one of the most popular spectator events in America, and tragedies like this are uncommon.”
According to Wolk, flying in an air show requires extensive training and discipline. The P-63 pilot’s air show qualifications are unknown.
Officials said the FAA was also conducting an investigation.