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Investigation begins at Reno Airfield after fatal crash Friday

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RENO, NV. -- A terrifying scene in Reno after a plane crashed into a crowed of spectators, including many Utahns, at an air show yesterday. Nine people were killed including the pilot, and more than 50 spectators were injured.

As witnesses and survivors cope with the tragedy, the National Transportation Safety Board has started its investigation. Federal investigators combed the crash site Saturday morning hoping to determine what caused the vintage World War II era fighter plane to plunge to the stands.

The pilot, 74-year-old Jimmy Leeward, was a veteran hollywood stunt pilot and had been racing airplanes for more than 35 years.

Leeward and his plane the Galloping ghost were featured Thursday on "Live Air Show TV."

"We are as fast as anyone in the field or maybe a little bit faster," Leeward said.

Officials say the plane may have been traveling at nearly 500 miles per hour when it spiraled out of control.

Witnesses said Leeward's final actions may have saved lives.

"The pilot is a hero. He had to be fighting those controls," said one spectator.

But the fight couldn't save his own life. Leeward and eight others perished in one of the most devastating crashes in history at this Reno airfield.

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Stephanie Stanton, NBC news


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