Shoreham airshow disaster: Inquest hears horror at ‘massive fireball’

Witnesses to the Shoreham Airshow disaster have described their horror at seeing a “massive ball of fire” during the crash.

The inquest into her death continued on Monday November 5 after a Hawker Hunter plane crashed during an air display on August 22, 2015, killing 11 men and injuring 13.

The pilot, Andrew Hill, was charged with 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter but was found not guilty on all counts in March 2019. He claims he has no memory of the crash.

The AAIB concluded that the aircraft crashed because it started the maneuver too low on the ground and its entry speed and thrust were too low during a loop.

Neil Lewer, a spectator at the side of Old Shoreham Road with his family, said he is an air show enthusiast and has attended the Shoreham Airshow before.

He added: “I remember seeing the Hawker Hunter coming over us as he started pulling himself up to start the loop.

The Argus: A photo of the Shoreham crash in 2015A photo of the Shoreham crash in 2015 (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

“I have experience with what a loop should look like, and I was like, ‘he’s going to pull up in a second,’ then ‘oh shit, he’s not gonna pull up.’

“I could hear the deafening screech of the jet engine. I looked to my left as a ball of fire and debris flew past us – it was hot and immediately smelled of burning.

“It was about 25 feet to our right. I didn’t see anyone get knocked out by the fireball and it turned into thick black smoke almost instantly.

“I looked for my family and the three of them were on the ground, my wife shouting ‘Down!’ I remember thinking, ‘Thank God they’re fine’.”

dr Marianne Jackson, a GP who attended the air show with her daughter, volunteered to help treat limb injuries after the crash.

She said: “I was trying to treat an elderly man who had walked away from his vehicle with his son. His son told me he had a heart condition and was clearly in shock but had refused medical attention.”

Sergeant Christopher Bryant, a uniformed Sussex police officer who provided security at the event, said he felt “helpless” after the crash.

He said: “I stood about 200 meters from the fireball and could see fire and smoke from two places.

“I will never forget the surreal silence. I thought it might be part of the show until the commentator said the plane had crashed and offered his condolences to the pilot and his family.

The Argus: The 11 Victims of the Shoreham Airshow DisasterThe 11 victims of the Shoreham Airshow disaster

“We were told to stay where we were but that felt wrong and we wanted to do more – we felt helpless. We asked to be present at the crime scene.

“We were aware that there was a serious incident, but nothing could have prepared us for what we saw.

“I believe that what I have seen will have a lasting impact on me and my colleagues. It was devastating and upsetting.”

The investigation continues. Shoreham airshow disaster: Inquest hears horror at ‘massive fireball’

Fry Electronics Team

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