The modified P-51D Mustang that crashed during qualifying runs at the Reno air races the afternoon of Friday, September 16, may have a lost an elevator component in the air before suddenly pitching up and diving to the ground near the public viewing area.
"Pictures and video appear to show a piece coming off [the P-51]," said US National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB) member Mark Rosekind, speaking to reporters during a press conference Saturday afternoon. "A component has been [found] in the area where it appeared to come off. It has not been identified and we're not sure yet whether it came off of this aircraft."
Local news station KOLO earlier revealed photographs showing what appears to be the left hand elevator trim tab partially separated in the air before the crash.
The death toll as of Saturday afternoon was nine.
A Reno police department official at the press conference said there had been seven fatalities on the tarmac, including the pilot, 74-year-old Jimmy Leeward. Fifty-four others were transported to hospitals, where an additional two people died, he said.
Seventeen are still being treated; 24 were treated and released.
Rosekind said three investigators were at the air show at the time of the accident, and the remainder of the NTSB team arrived Saturday morning. He says investigators have identified and processed the wreckage, and that the runway had been cleaned and was being prepared to reopen.