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Shoreham air crash: What we know

Shoreham air crash Image copyright EPA

At least 11 people were killed when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 during a display at the Shoreham Airshow.

Aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has imposed new restrictions on airshows in the wake of the disaster - one of the worst of its kind in recent years.


What happened?

Image caption Illustration of the jet's final manoeuvre based on video footage of the event
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Media captionVideo footage shows the Hawker Hunter plane crashing in a ball of flames

The Shoreham Airshow takes place annually at Shoreham Airport in West Sussex and is run by the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA).

Some 50 aircraft, including many classic jets, were scheduled to take to the skies for display flights during the two-day event. Among them was a vintage Hawker Hunter jet, flown by pilot Andy Hill.

Eyewitnesses say the plane had just begun its flight and was performing a loop when it failed to pull out of the manoeuvre and crashed into traffic on a busy main road, the A27, at about 13:20 BST.

Footage captured by spectators at the airshow and nearby motorists showed a large fireball engulf the area.

A major incident was declared, with one of the paramedics describing it as a scene of "utter devastation".

'Like a bomb exploding' - eyewitness accounts


What might have caused it?

It is not yet clear what caused the crash, but eyewitnesses said the aircraft appeared to come out of the loop manoeuvre "too low".

Shoreham resident Dave Penwarden, 51, saw the plane explode. "It just didn't seem to have enough speed to come out of the loop, instead of powering out it dropped too fast and hit the ground."

Pilot Darren Sharp, who was a spectator at the event, told the BBC he believed the pilot had realised he was in trouble and made a "brave decision" to take the plane down away from the airfield where thousands of people were standing.

Friend and fellow pilot Neil McCarthy said he believed Mr Hill had "the experience to roll out of the manoeuvre at the top and not complete it" if he lacked enough height.

"The height looked high enough to me," he said. "But so many things can go wrong, there can be bird strikes, engine failure, an engine fire, there could be all sorts."


What do we know about the plane?

Image copyright EPA

The Hawker Hunter was a mainstay of the RAF through the 1950s and early 1960s. First flown in 1951, the single-seat plane was used as a fighter, fighter-bomber for reconnaissance and for aerobatics.

There was also a two-seat trainer version, which served with many other air forces.

Neil McCarthy said the precise type of aircraft was a 1950s Hawker Hunter T7, of which there were "probably only five flying at the minute", with Mr Hill one of only about six pilots who could fly it.

The RAFA says all air display arrangements, including the pilots and aircraft, must meet rigorous Civil Aviation Authority safety requirements and are regularly reviewed to ensure they provide the highest possible levels of protection.


Who is the pilot?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pilot Andy Hill remains in a critical condition

Andy Hill, 51, from Sandon, near Buntingford in Hertfordshire, is a former RAF instructor and British Airways pilot. He is also an experienced aerobatic stunt flyer who has performed at shows up and down the country.

Mr Hill was pulled from the burning wreckage, with multiple injuries. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and is now in a critical but stable condition at an unnamed specialist hospital.

His family said they were devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life, and sent condolences to the families of those affected.

The flying of the Hawker Hunter jet at air displays was shared between Mr Hill and another pilot, Chris Heames, who was on holiday when the crash took place.

He says he was shocked and confused when he learned what had happened.

"I didn't quite understand how that could happen, because the airshow rules that we fly to are very stringent, and they are specifically designed to protect the public," he told the BBC.

He described Mr Hill as a top RAF pilot, the "cream from the cream" who had been selected to fly the Harrier.

"He was one of the guys who would always go out of his way to help others," he said. "He worked for British Airways and in the time he had available, he helped other people learn to fly ex-military aircraft."

George Bacon, of the British Air Display Association, who has worked with Mr Hill, told BBC News he is an "unbelievably experienced" pilot, and his preparation for air displays was always "second to none".


Who are the victims?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Matt Jones (left), Jacob Schilt (centre) and Matthew Grimstone (right) were among those killed

At least 11 people died and a further 14 people were injured, four of whom were taken to hospital. Police said the death toll could continue to rise as the recovery operation progressed.

Sussex Police said the crash site is spread over about 400 yards of the A27 and extends to the adjoining airfield. All of those who died are thought to have been on the road.

Among them was Matt Jones, 24, a personal trainer, named by his sister Becky Jones on Facebook as one of the dead.

Two Worthing United footballers and schoolfriends Jacob Schilt, 23, and Matthew Grimstone, 23, who were travelling together, were also named as victims.

On Monday Sussex Police named Maurice Abrahams, from Brighton, as one of the victims.

Mr Abrahams' family released a tribute to the 76-year-old chauffeur, who was a former soldier and police officer, calling him a "loved father and husband".

Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption Mr Abrahams was driving his "beloved Daimler car" when the plane crashed

Meanwhile, the relatives of two men who remain missing following the crash have made appeals to trace them.

Daniele Polito was in the same car as Matt Jones, according to his family.

Sussex Police has not yet officially confirmed that Mr Polito is among the dead, but posting on Facebook his sister Marina said: "I miss you loads already little (big) bro! Keep making people smile."

Ms Polito said that many people loved her brother and would "miss him loads".

The other missing man, Mark Trussler, is thought to have been riding his motorbike on the A27.

Shoreham air crash: The victims

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Daniele Polito (left) and Mark Trussler (right)

Is there a problem with airshow safety?

Image copyright JP Rowe

According to the RAFA, the UK has among the most stringent safety requirements for air displays in the world, with both pilots and aircraft undergoing numerous checks. It said it took safety arrangements "very seriously".

Dozens of airshows take place across the UK every year, with the overwhelming majority passing without incident.

However, there have been a number of incidents at airshows over the last decade, including some which led to fatalities - mainly to pilots. It is also the second incident at the Shoreham Airshow in recent years.

In September 2007, James Bond stuntman Brian Brown, 49, died when he crashed a World War Two Hurricane after carrying out an unplanned barrel roll at a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain. A report recommended the sequence of manoeuvres should be clearly specified in advance of flying displays.

Following the latest disaster, the family of one of the victims has called for aerobatic air displays to be held over sea rather than land to minimise the potential for fatalities.

The Civil Aviation Authority has temporarily imposed new restrictions on airshows - limiting the manoeuvres of vintage jets over land to fly-pasts and banning aerobatics. It has also grounded all Hawker Hunter aircraft pending further investigations.

Previous UK aerial display accidents


Who will investigate?

Image copyright PA

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), which investigates civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK, attended the scene of the crash.

A team will continue to investigate as the recovery operation progresses. The operation to remove the wreckage of the plane began on Monday.

Their investigation will eventually conclude with a report analysing the circumstances and possible causes of the incident, without attributing blame, as well as offering possible recommendations about how aviation safety might be improved as a result.

The AAIB has asked anyone who has video or photographs of the plane in the time leading up to and including the crash to keep hold of them and await advice as to whether they may be wanted to assist with the investigation.

The British Aviation Display Association and the CAA have both said they will look at what lessons might need to be learned.

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