Two historic military planes collided and crashed to the ground on Saturday during an air show in Dallas, exploding into a ball of flame and sending plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky. It was unclear how many people were on-board the aircraft or if anyone on the ground was hurt.

Anthony Montoya said he saw the two planes collide.

“I just stood there. I was in complete shock and disbelief,” said Montoya, 27, who attended the air show with a friend. “Everybody around was gasping. Everybody was bursting into tears. Everybody was in shock.”

Emergency crews raced to the crash scene at the Dallas Executive Airport, about 16 kilometres from the city’s downtown.

Live TV news footage from the scene showed people setting up orange cones around the crumpled wreckage of the bomber, which was in a grassy area.

A damaged plane sits at the Dallas Executive Airport following the incident on Saturday. (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

“The videos are heartbreaking,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wrote on Twitter, adding that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had taken control of the crash scene, with local police and fire crews providing support.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra collided and crashed at about 1:20 p.m. local time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement. The collision occurred during the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas show.

The B-17, an immense four-engine bomber, was a cornerstone of U.S. air power during the Second World War. The Kingcobra, a U.S. fighter plane, was used mostly by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of the Second World War, and only a handful remain today, largely featured at museums and air shows, according to Boeing.

Several videos posted on Twitter showed the fighter plane appearing to fly into the bomber, causing them to quickly crash to the ground and setting off a large ball of fire and smoke.

Emergency responders are seen at the Dallas Executive Airport on Saturday. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

“It was really horrific to see,” said Aubrey Anne Young, 37, of Leander, Texas, who saw the crash. Her children were inside the hangar with their father when it occurred. “I’m still trying to make sense of it.”

A woman next to Young can be heard crying and screaming hysterically on a video that Young uploaded to her Facebook page.

Air show safety, particularly with older military aircraft, has been a concern for years. In 2011, 11 people were killed in Reno, Nev. — including a Canadian couple — when a P-51 Mustang crashed into spectators. In 2019, a bomber crashed in Hartford, Conn., killing seven people. The NTSB said then that it had investigated 21 accidents since 1982 involving Second World War-era bombers, resulting in 23 deaths.

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is seen in Seattle in this June 2016 photo. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Wings Over Dallas bills itself as “America’s Premier World War II Airshow,” according to a website advertising the event. The show was scheduled for Friday to Sunday, Veterans Day weekend, and guests were to see more than 40 Second World War-era aircraft. Flying demonstrations, including a “bomber parade” and “fighter escorts,” featuring the B-17 and P-63, were on the Saturday afternoon schedule.

Videos of previous Wings Over Dallas events depict vintage warplanes flying low, sometimes in close formation, on simulated strafing or bombing runs. The videos also show the planes performing aerobatic stunts.

The FAA was also launching an investigation, officials said.

WATCH | Commemorative Air Force promo featuring P-63 Kingcobra: 

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