Vintage plane crashes into road during Shoreham Airshow in England

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The crashed aircraft, pictured in 2013 during a display.
Image: Alan Wilson.

Police warn more bodies may remain to be found after yesterday’s crash of a vintage jet killed at least seven people. The Hawker Hunter crashed into a busy road during the Shoreham Airshow in England.

The plane failed to pull out of a large loop at around 1:20p.m. It hit the nearby A27 road, erupting into a fireball and leaving cars burned out and heavily damaged. The scene in West Sussex is near the town of Shoreham.

Pilot Andy Hill is presently alive but critically injured in hospital. He has previously flown with British Airways and the Royal Air Force. Two of the dead are Worthing United FC football players, Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, who were on their way to a match.

Also killed was Matt Jones, 24, who worked as a personal trainer. He came from Littlehampton and was giving a friend a lift. A vintage Daimler wedding limousine on its way to collect a bride was also caught up in the crash, but its owner Chariot Chauffeurs say they are unclear on if the driver was a fatality.

Sussex Police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are investigating. Police Superintendent Jane Derrick said last night, “At this time we are continuing to search[…] It is possible that tonight and tomorrow we are going to find more bodies at the scene.” She said it is believed all casualties except the pilot were road users. At least fourteen were injured.

A Hawker Hunter displaying at last year’s show.
Image: John5199.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry today said eleven people are “highly likely to have died in this tragedy”, based upon “our initial work at the site” and “inquiries following calls to the emergency services from worried families and friends”. He said officers currently remain at the “incredibly large” scene. There are plans to remove plane wreckage using a crane tomorrow.

The pilot, Hill, was experienced, with years of display flying under his belt and a military career that included flying Harrier jump-jets. David Wildridge, another pilot who took part yesterday, said Hill is “well-known and well-loved”, “very professional”, and that his Harrier experience made him “the best of the best.”

The 1950s jet was decommissioned from military service in 1996 and sold at auction. In 2012 English entrepreneur Graham Peacock bought it for around £65,000. It is a regular at airshows.

Tina Tilley, head of the local chamber of commerce, was at the show ans said “From where we were we could see the jet came down very low and looked like it was going to scoop up — but it didn’t. There were flames and we knew it was right on the A27. Everyone was horrified and there were people crying.” Motorist Dom Lawson, whose car was narrowly missed, said “It was like something out of Die Hard“. The road closure left thousands trapped at the scene as they could not remove their cars.

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron sent “his heartfelt condolences to the families of the people who were so tragically killed […] [his] thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.” The airshow is cancelled today.

It is one of three deadly European airshow crash in four days. On Thursday two planes carrying parachutists collided and crashed in West Slovakia. At least seven were killed. They had been practising for an airshow due to be held this weekend. Today two small planes collided during an airshow in Dittingen, Switzerland. One of the pilots escaped but the other was killed.

Earlier this year a pilot was killed when his plane crashed during an aerial display at CarFest in England. In 2007 a Shoreham Airshow display recreating the Battle of Britain ended with a pilot dead following a crash.

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Those concerned about relatives can call police on 01273 470101



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