Third Fatal Crash at Nevada Air Races

RENO, Nev. --

Two airplanes collided Friday at the Reno National Championship Air Races, killing one pilot and injuring another in the third fatal crash at the event in four days.

Five-time defending champion Gary Hubler, 51, of Caldwell, Idaho, was killed in the crash shortly after 9:30 a.m. at Stead Airport just north of Reno, race officials said.

It was the 18th fatality in the 44-year history of the air races and caused the suspension of the competition for the day, but race officials said it would resume Saturday as scheduled.

The pilot of the other plane in Friday's crash was identified as Jason Somes of Simi Valley, Calif. He was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life threatening. A friend said he had an eye injury.

Hubler's plane apparently clipped the back of Somes' plane before crashing. Somes was able to land his damaged aircraft, race officials said.

"They just clipped wings barely," said witness Carter Fox. "One immediately went down to the ground."

Two judges on the ground also suffered minor injuries from flying debris. One refused medical attention, and the other was treated at the scene.

Students on a field trip from seven elementary schools were among those at the races when the crash occurred. School officials said counselors were being made available to talk to children.

Competing in the Forumla One class, Hubler was flying a Cassutt III M single-seat plane named "Mariah," which is designed for pylon racing and aerial acrobatics.

Hubler started competing in the Reno races in 1984. During Thursday's first heat, he reached a top speed of 259 mph, according to the air races' Web site.

Two pilots were killed in separate accidents on Tuesday and Thursday, the first time since 1993 there has been more than one fatal crash at the races in the same year.

"This is highly unusual," said Michael Houghton, president of the air races.

The races are like a car race in the sky, following an oval path over the airport runway and around pylon markers at various distances and sometimes within a few hundred feet of the ground.

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