Two World War II-era airplanes collided while performing a flyover at a commemorative event in Texas on Saturday, crashing into the ground and erupting into a ball of flames that left onlookers shocked and dismayed.
Six people were onboard the two planes at the time of the crash, the Commemorative Air Force said, and all six were killed, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra were participating in the Air Force’s Wings Over Dallas air show when they collided mid-air near the Dallas Executive Airport just before 1:30 p.m. local time, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
NTSB board member Michael Graham said during a Sunday press conference that neither plane had flight data recorders, also known as black boxes. As a result, he said, investigators are seeking photos and videos recorded at the scene from the public.
“They’ll actually be very critical since we don’t have any flight data recordings,” said Graham. Witness images and video can be sent to [email protected], Graham said.
Several videos posted on Twitter showed the fighter plane appearing to fly into the bomber, causing them to quickly plummet to the ground and setting off a large ball of fire and smoke.
According to the event’s website, several planes were scheduled to do a flyover demonstration Saturday afternoon. Social media posts showed hundreds of people gathered to watch the flyover. The 3-day event is in honor of Veterans Day, which was Friday.
Anthony Montoya saw the two planes collide.
“I just stood there. I was in complete shock and disbelief,” said Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend. “Everybody around was gasping. Everybody was bursting into tears. Everybody was in shock.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called it a “terrible tragedy.”
“The videos are heartbreaking,” he tweeted. “Please, say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today.”
The mayor of Keller, Texas, a small city about 30 miles north of Dallas, said in a Facebook post that a former city councilman, Terry Barker, was among the deceased. Mayor Armin Mizani wrote that Barker was a husband, father and Army veteran.
“Terry Barker was beloved by many. He was a friend and someone whose guidance I often sought. Even after retiring from serving on the City Council and flying for American Airlines, his love for community was unmistakable,” Mizani wrote.
Ohio Wing Civil Air Patrol Major Curt Rowe also died in the crash, according to the agency.
“Curt touched the lives of thousands of his fellow Civil Air Patrol members, especially when flying cadets during hundreds of orientation flights,” wrote Colonel Peter Bowden.
The B-17, an immense four-engine bomber, was a cornerstone of U.S. air power during World War II. The Kingcobra, a U.S. fighter plane, was used mostly by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II and only a handful remain today, largely featured at museums and air shows, according to Boeing.
No paying customers were on the aircraft, said Coates, of Commemorative Air Force, which also owned the planes. Their aircraft are flown by highly trained volunteers, often retired pilots, he said.
Victoria Yeager, the widow of famed Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager and herself a pilot, was also at the show. She didn’t see the collision, but did see the burning wreckage.
“It was pulverized,” said Yeager, 64, who lives in Fort Worth.
“We were just hoping they had all gotten out, but we knew they didn’t,” she said of those on board.
“It was really horrific to see,” Aubrey Anne Young, 37, of Leander. Texas, who saw the crash. Her children were inside the hangar with their father when it occurred. “I’m still trying to make sense of it.”
A woman next to Young can be heard crying and screaming hysterically on a video that Young uploaded to her Facebook page.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation.
Air show safety — particularly with older military aircraft — has been a concern for years. In 2011, 11 people were killed in Reno, Nevada, when a P-51 Mustang crashed into spectators. In 2019, a bomber crashed in Hartford, Connecticut, killing seven people. The NTSB said then that it had investigated 21 accidents since 1982 involving World War II-era bombers, resulting in 23 deaths.