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Lawsuit Filed Over Nevada Air Race Crash

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The family of Craig Salerno, 50, of Friendswood, Texas, has filed a lawsuit against the Reno Air Racing Association, pilot James Leeward’s racing team and organization, and two other entities that were involved in modifying a plane that crashed into a crowd of spectators during an air race in Nevada. The lawsuit is the first of many that are expected to be filed over the September 16 air race crash, which killed 10 spectators and injured 60 more.

The lawsuit says that the crash was not a ‘freak accident” but was instead “the predictable result of a reckless drive for speed by a risk-taking pilot and crew, coupled with an insatiable drive for profit” by event organizers. An attorney for the Salerno family was reported by CNN as saying that the lawsuit was filed before the National Transportation Safety Board determined the cause of the crash, because the agency has designated race organizers as a “party” to the investigation, which he feels is much like “letting the air race association investigate themselves.”<!–more–>

The lawsuit claims that Leeward’s P-51D Mustang had received extensive modification, including a shortened wingspan and horizontal tail, altered canopy, and engine changes that allowed the plane to allegedly fly at speeds greater than 550 miles per hour, instead of its originally designed top speed of 437 miles per hour. The lawsuit states that the “P-51D was never designed to operate at speeds approaching 550 mph.”

The suit goes on to state that the air race was more dangerous than other air show events, because in “an air show, pilots are forbidden from flying toward the crowd, and all performers must remain over and fly parallel to the show line at a safe distance from spectators. In an air race, however, pilots circle a course just as cars would in a race on the ground,” the lawsuit says. “This means that on at least one turn — typically down the home stretch — the air racers fly directly towards the spectators.”

The president and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, while a spokesperson for the NTSB said that the inclusion of the organization in the investigation does not affect the objectivity of the agency. disclaimer: This article: Lawsuit Filed Over Nevada Air Race Crash was posted on Monday, November 7th, 2011 at 6:28 pm at and is filed under Accident Lawsuits.

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