The Heroes of the Reno Air Race Crash

It goes without saying that the men and women who work as fire personnel, police and first responders are the unsung heroes of any disaster.  This was most especially true last week in Reno, NV.  The Galloping Ghost, a WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter plane, crashed into the VIP section Friday sending shrapnel flying in all directions.  The debris field covered between 2 and 3 acres of tarmac.  Fortunately, the jet fuel didn’t explode.  However, there were many hurt and some were hurt fatally.

What I remember most of the accident, as I watching it live right after the crash, is how the people of this area pulled together.  Approximately 100 people in the stands who were trained medical professionals, immediately left their seats and went to the injured and dying.  The people who didn’t have medical attention rushed to help the professionals carry litters, hold bandages and whatever else was asked of them.

Within minutes, there were 700 emergency responders coming onto the scene.  Some of those responders had been the first to arrive at the Carson City IHOP Shooting just a week prior to this tragedy.  Civilians began breaking down the VIP boxes to be used as tourniquets with larger pieces covering up body parts.

As helicopters began to arrive, two civilian pilots noticed a vintage Vietnam era helicopter on display.  They realized that it could fly so they put the tires on it and began flying the critical to area hospitals.  The doctors and nurses who came from the stands, rode in the ambulances and in the helicopters to the hospital so they could continue working.  Medical personnel from all around the area who immediately heard of the disaster, left their days off and went to their respective hospitals to go to work.  Even those who had already left worked for the day, came charging back.

The crowds, who you would expect to be hysterical and running, were very much calm and orderly.  Everyone was doing the very best they could to help each other.  For those who were injured but ambulatory, the stranger that was sitting next to them before the crash became the friend who helped them walk to help.

“This happened so fast, there was just a sense of shock. But people were very calm. You know, they didn’t know me. They came, held my hand, told me I was going to be all right,” Noah Joraanstad, a 25-year-old commercial airline pilot from Anchorage, Alaska, told The Associated Press from his hospital bed at Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks. “They walked into a scene where people were amputated, whatever, and just carnage everywhere, and they decided to help. To me, those were the real heroes.”

Because we live in a tourist area with many large events every year, our people here train and train and train for disasters.  They run drills, they work mock situations and then do corrective errors when they are done.   Because we are Northern Nevadans we have a strong sense of community and neighbors.  People don’t get into your business here because that’s the Western way, but if you need help, we will move mountains to get you and your family what you need.

It is unfortunate that today we lost the 11th victim of this tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends.  But, if it wasn’t for the unselfish gestures of those involved, it would have been much, much greater.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jack DeLay Box A-40
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 10:57:02

    I was in Box A-40 and the plane impacted just feet from where I was sitting. One second we were all enjoying the races, and the next, it was a war zone. Before the first responders arrived, there were many who were uninjured that lept into action. One of our people was helping a seriously injured man named “Jim”. He had severe head injuries as well as shrapnell injuries to his back. That is all we know. We would very much like to know if he survived if it’s possible.


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