I had planned on writing a long post about the Travis Air Force Base Open House, wrapping up with comparing the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, which I’ve never seen, with the Navy’s Blue Angels, which I’ve seen more times than I can count. That didn’t happen. We did get a chance to see, and even walk through, some pretty awesome planes, but the whole event was overshadowed by a tragedy: Eddie Andreini, 77, a veteran stunt pilot died in a crash.
I didn’t see the crash happen, but eyewitnesses saw him flying upside down and low to the ground. Suddenly, the emcee said “Oh, Eddie. Oh, Eddie!” and that was that. Andreini hit the ground hard and his plane quickly burst into flames.
The emcee then said “Everybody, please stay where you are. Do not move. Stay where you are.” With those words, as one, hundreds of people stopped what they were doing . . . and rushed over to the barricades separating the crowd from the airfield. No one crossed the barricades, but there was an overwhelming human impulse to see what had happened.
Actually, not everyone. I quickly realized what happened and didn’t look. I knew there would be nothing to see, since the crash site was on the far side of the runway and was quickly surrounded by emergency vehicles. Nevertheless, it felt like ghoulish voyeurism to try to see a man’s funeral pyre.
The authorities at the base asked everyone to leave, a process that took about two hours, from concourse to road. The crowd was saddened and polite. As we left, military and local police personnel poured on the field. It wasn’t clear why they were necessary. I suspected that the descended on the site simply because the good.
My thoughts and prayers go to Andreini’s family and friends. (Incidentally, it was clear that the emcee was a friend, yet he never lost his professionalism, as he helped give instructions and information to the crowd.)
UPDATE: This is awful. It turns out that the pilot might have survived the crash if emergency crews had responded more swiftly.