The Freak Accident


Freak accidents always catch us off guard. We can’t even picture the weird things that can happen.  The ones we can imagine, we try not to think about.

That's why my heart races when I watch the Blue Angels screaming across the sky at less than 1000 feet above me. Or the acrobat who does a triple flip at the top of the tent with no safety net below. Or the magician, bound hands and feet, in a tank of water who tries to escape before he drowns. (Yes, I know it's magic, and he knows what he's doing, but sometimes, he drowns.)

That's what happened yesterday with the crash of a vintage fighter plane at the annual air show in Reno.

A World War II-era P-51 Mustang, flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot plunged  into the edge of  the VIP grandstands, killing three people, and injuring more than 50 spectators . The pilot Jimmy Leeward, who was interviewed last year before the races ,was asked why he liked to race fighter planes. "They're more fun. More speed, more challenge. Speed, speed and more speed," Leeward said.

The FAA and air race organizers spend months preparing for air races as  they develop a plan involving pilot qualification, training and testing  along with a layout for the course. The FAA inspects pilots' practice  runs and brief pilots on the route maneuvers and emergency procedures. The pilot knew what he was doing. Preliminary reports indicate a mechanical problem.

Jimmy died doing what he loved. Spectators died because they were there. The injured who survive will always remember the freak accident. My heart will always race in anticipation of it.


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