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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Tim Hanlon

Air show fan tells of engine scream before seeing fireball in Shoreham disaster

An air show fan has told of hearing an "ear-piercing scream" before seeing a fireball and wreckage fly past him as he witnessed the Shoreham air disaster, an inquest heard.

A Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed onto the A27 during an aerial display on August 22, 2015, killing 11 men and injuring another 13.

The inquest into their deaths continued in Horsham on Monday as senior coroner Penelope Schofield heard a brief introduction from Julian Firth of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) about how the crash occurred.

The pilot, Andrew Hill, was charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019 - he maintains he has no memory of the crash.

The AAIB concluded the plane crashed because it began the manoeuvre too low to the ground and its entry speed and thrust was too low towards the A27 during a loop.

Accounts from six witnesses were read out to the court describing the devastation they saw that day.

Neil Lewer, a bystander at the side of the nearby Old Shoreham Road with his family, said he was an air show enthusiast and had attended the Shoreham Airshow before.

He said: “I remember seeing the Hawker Hunter coming in above us when it started to pull up to begin the loop.

“I have experience of how a loop should look and I was thinking ‘he’s going to pull up in a second’, then ‘oh s***, he’s not going to pull up’. I could hear the ear-piercingly loud scream of the jet engine. I looked to my left as a fireball and wreckage went flying past us – it was hot and there was the smell of burning in an instant.

“It was about 25 feet to our right. I didn’t see anyone get taken out by the fireball and it almost instantaneously turned into thick black smoke. I looked for my family and the three of them were on the ground, my wife was shouting ‘get down’. I remember thinking ‘thank Christ they’re alright’.”

Joseph Jones, who worked as a steward trying to move people along from the Old Shoreham Road close to its junction to the A27, said he heard an “explosion and slam” from about 100 metres away, adding he “thought it was part of the show” at first.

Mr Jones added: “I started to walk towards the junction and other stewards came along and told me to stay where I was. I watched the crash afterwards to understand what happened. It didn’t affect me as I was far away and I didn’t see anything gory or nasty.”

Dr Marianne Jackson, a GP who was attending the air show with her daughter, volunteered to help treat walking wounded after the crash.

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

Sgtt Christopher Bryant, a uniformed Sussex Police officer who was providing security at the event, said he felt “helpless” following the crash.

He said: “I was standing about 200 metres away from the fireball and I could see fire and smoke from two locations. The surreal silence I will never forget. I thought it might be part of the show until the commentator said the plane had crashed and gave his condolences to the pilot and his family.

“We were told to stay at our location but this felt wrong and we wanted to do more – we felt helpless. We requested to attend the scene.

“We were aware there was a serious incident but nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. I believe what I saw will have a lasting effect on me and my colleagues. It was devastating and upsetting.”

The inquest continues.

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