Speaking from Renown Medical Center in Reno, 59-year-old Ed Larson of San Diego recounted the moments before Jimmy Leeward’s P51 airplane slammed into the tarmac at the Reno Air Races Friday.
Larson had just wrapped up a conference call when the plane came off the race course.
“It just looked like there was lack of control, or something was wrong. But from that point to when the thing hit, it was a very short, compressed time,” said Larson.
Leeward’s plane hit the ground very close to the event’s box seats. Larson was seated in the front row of box 50 and ran for his life while other spectators took cover.
“They hit the deck, I ran. For whatever reason, I ran and a few seconds later, the thing crashes right behind me,” said Larson.
Debris and shrapnel from the WWII-era plane severed Larson’s right Achilles tendon, flew into his back and hit him in the back of the head.
Larson’s stitches were on display as he spoke to reporters Sunday afternoon.
“(The debris) must’ve hit at an angle, because it could’ve penetrated my skull but it didn’t,” said Larson.
Larson’s wife, Sherry, hopped a flight from San Diego to Reno and was seated between a National Guard member and a doctor, both of whom were called into action.
“They told me the plane hit 20 feet away from where Ed was standing,” Sherry said. “It was going 500 miles an hour, straight down, so for him to be alive is amazing.”
Despite his extensive injuries, Larson, who has been to the Reno Air Races three times, doesn’t want to see the event end.
“I don’t think they should cancel it,” said Larson. “It’s a great community event.”