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Scottsdale man among dead at Nev. air show crash

22-year-old ASU grad was on vacation with father who was hurt in accident

A 22-year-old Scottsdale man was among nine killed after a plane crashed Friday at the National Championship Air Races near Reno, Nev, a family spokeswoman said Saturday.

Michael Wogan, a recent Arizona State University graduate, was at the races with his father, William A. Wogan, during a father-son vacation in Nevada, said Tara La Bouff in a press release.

The family was notified of Michael Wogan’s death at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, and learned that William Wogan is among the seriously injured after a P-51 Mustang fighter plane dived into the grandstands during the annual show.

The plane's elderly pilot also was killed, and least 50 spectators were injured, the Herald Sun reported.

Michael Wogan was diagnosed at an early age with muscular dystrophy and was wheelchair-bound. Despite his ailment, he was motivated to live independently and be as self-sufficient as possible, said James Wogan, his 19-year-old brother, in the press release.

“He was about moving past that (disability) and always driven toward independence,” James Wogan said. “Michael liked to get out and travel, and he was so excited about getting on a plane as part of this trip.” 

In May, Michael Wogan graduated magna cum laude from ASU with a bachelor's degree in finance.

Since his sophomore year in high school, he had operated a web development company and was in the process of developing a second business.  He was a long-time board member of Arizona Helping Hands, a charity that serves the needs of underprivileged and struggling families, La Bouff said.

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“We celebrate Michael’s life and, although we will miss him dearly, we have such peace and joy knowing that he is not suffering and now walks side-by-side with God,” said Anne Wogan, his mother, in the release.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was to perform an aerobatics display Saturday in a similar plane, but was not at the show at the time of the accident, said Mark Kimble, Gifford's spokesman.

Kelly's performance was canceled following the fatal accident, Kimble said.

An investigation has begun after the elderly pilot — a race veteran — apparently lost control of the P-51 Mustang and crashed into a box seat area at the front of the grandstand, race spokesman Mike Draper said.

Investigators are looking at whether a broken elevator trim tab on the plane's tail, which relieves control pressure on a pilot, broke off before the accident, CNN reported.

"It's just like a massacre. It's like a bomb went off," said witness Gerald Lent, quoted by the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"There are people lying all over the runway. One guy was cut in half. There's blood everywhere," he said, ABC reports.

The Reno Police Department said two people at an area hospital and seven, including the pilot, were killed on the airfield's tarmac.

Amateur video posted on YouTube showed the plane crashing nose-down at the show after several other planes raced by in the air, and spectators could be heard gasping: "Oh, my God." Reuters reports.

Stephanie Kruse, a spokeswoman for the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, said 25 people were critically injured and another 25 people were seriously hurt in the crash.

"This is a very large incident, probably one of the largest this community has seen in decades,'' Kruse told The Associated Press. "The community is pulling together to try to deal with the scope of it. The hospitals have certainly geared up and staffed up to deal with it."

KRNV-TV weatherman Jeff Martinez, who was just outside the air race grounds at the time, said the plane veered to the right and then "it just augered straight into the ground.''

"You saw pieces and parts going everywhere,'' he said. "Everyone is in disbelief.''

Another witness, Ronald Sargis, said he was sitting in the box seat area near the finish line when the crash occurred.

The Herald Sun reports:

Draper identified the pilot of the P-51 Mustang as Jimmy Leeward of Florida, who according to race official Mike Draper, is 80 years-old.

Draper told CNN that Leeward had called in a mayday but no reason was given for the emegency alert."We don't know why it crashed,'' Draper said, adding that the plane had hit the box-seat area in front of the main grandstand.

Leeward is the owner of the Leeward Air Ranch Racing Team and is a well-known racing pilot. His website says he has flown more than 120 races and served as a stunt pilot for numerous movies, including Amelia and Cloud Dancer.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Investigators of a deadly plane crash at an air show near Reno, Nev., are looking at whether a broken elevator trim tab on the plane's tail, which relieves control pressure on a pilot, broke off before the accident.

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