Six people died as a result of an explosive midair collision between two historic military planes in Texas on Saturday.
Two World War II era planes – a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra – collided at a demonstration of more than 40 vintage planes at the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas air show, hosted by the Dallas Executive Airport over Veterans Day weekend.
The horrific accident was caught on “heartbreaking” video from multiple angles by spectators at what was billed as “America’s Premier World War II Airshow.”
All five crew members on the B-17, a four-engine bomber, and the pilot of the P-63, a fighter plane, were all killed on scene, when the P-63 appeared to fly into the B-17, which caused both planes to crash to the ground and explode into giant fireball.
Four of the six crash victims have been identified as retired pilot and Army veteran Terry Barker, former American Airlines pilot Len Root, B-17 mechanic and Ohio Wing of the Civil Air Patrol member Major Curtis Rowe, and Texas pilot Craig Hutain.
Debris from the 1:20 p.m. collision rained down on the Dallas Executive Airport, which is 10 miles outside of the densely populated downtown area of the city, along with nearby Highway 67, and a strip mall close to the scene.
No spectators or passerby’s in the vicinity were injured by the crash, which over 40 fire crew units rushed to in hopes of rescuing victims.
“It was pulverized,” said witness and pilot Victoria Yeager of the scene. “We were just hoping they had all gotten out, but we knew they didn’t.”
“I just stood there. I was in complete shock and disbelief,” air show patron Anthony Montoya remarked. “Everybody around was gasping. Everybody was bursting into tears. Everybody was in shock.”
An air show pilot Arthur Alan Wolk said that he wasn’t “blaming anyone,” but noted that the P-63 pilot “went belly up to the leader” of the formation, which prevented the pilot from being able to gauge the distance and position of the B-17.
“The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see who you are supposed to be in formation with and that kind of join up is not permitted,” Wolk explained.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is helming the crash investigation, which could last up to 18 months.
Investigator Michael Graham urged witnesses to submit photos and videos of the collision to the agency, as the vintage planes were not equipped with “black box” flight data recorders.
“They’ll actually be very critical since we don’t have any flight data recorder data or cockpit voice recorders or anything like [that technology],” he remarked.
“They’ll be very critical to analyze the collision and also tie that in with the aircraft control recordings to determine why the two aircraft collided.”
In addition to the tragic loss of life, the WWII era planes were extremely rare.
The B-17 bomber was produced between 1936 and 1945, and was one of only nine flyable models of the plane in existence.
The P-63, which was manufactured for a very limited run between 1943 and 1945, and primarily used by the Soviet Air Force in WWII, was on of only four airworthy crafts in the United States.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has been keeping residents updated on the investigation at the since cancelled air show.
On Sunday, he told constituents not to be alarmed as a controlled detonation of the “remaining pyrotechnics” from Wings Over Dallas would be detonated by firefighters.
“Please, say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today,” he said in a separate message.