AUSTIN, TEXAS — Two people, one of them a military veteran, aboard a World War II-era airplane died after the aircraft crashed into an apartment complex parking lot in Fredericksburg, Texas, on Saturday afternoon.
Gillespie County sheriff’s officials got the emergency call at around 3:15 p.m. The crash occurred off Friendship Lane, according to reports. Two people reportedly were on board the aircraft at the time of the crash, but it remained unclear late Saturday if there are any fatalities or injuries.
The downed aircraft is a WWII vintage P-51D Mustang fighter, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials. According to reports, several vehicles in the parking lot of the apartment complex were damaged.
Officials at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg confirmed the deaths of two people in the crash. Museum officials initially reported both were veterans, later correcting their statement to not just one of those killed held that distinction.
The pilot killed was identified on Sunday as Cowden Ward, Jr., of Burnet, according to a Facebook post. Pecos Bill P-51 Freedom Flyers posted news of Ward’s death, noting his demise “…has left all of his friends and family heartbroken.” Ward, a member of the group posting on Facebook, offered free rides to veterans in vintage planes, according to officials.
“We hope that everyone will remember his infectious smile, his passion for flying our nation’s veterans, and above all remember him for the amazing pilot, friend and caring person he was,” the statement read.
Although the identify of his passenger has not been disclosed, the post noted he was a World War II veteran and former B-17 pilot.
According to a Facebook event page, the museum was hosting a two-day Pacific Combat Program that started Saturday at 2 p.m. Saturday about an hour before the crash.
“Tanks, explosions, landing craft and flamethrowers! Living History Reenactments in the Pacific Combat Zone put you on the front line,” museum officials wrote in describing the event. “The Pacific Combat Zone comes alive with the sights and sounds of combat on scheduled weekends throughout the year. Army, Navy and Marine re-enactors move in to capture fortified positions from Japanese defenders, employing landing craft, explosives and flamethrowers… and you are there!”
The plane had performed during a flyover as part of the living history show staged by the museum, officials later confirmed. The tragedy occurred as the museum was gearing up to launch a fundraising drive ten days from the incident to preserve World War II veterans’ stories.
The names of the deceased had not been released as of Sunday afternoon. The town of Fredericksburg is just under 80 miles west of Austin and 70 miles north of San Antonio.
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