Tributes paid to Red Arrows crash pilot Jon Egging

A special tribute has been held at the Bournemouth Air Festival for the pilot killed when one of the RAF's Red Arrows crashed following a display.

Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, from Rutland, died when his Hawk T1 aircraft crashed into a field at the village of Throop near the airport on Saturday afternoon.

A one minute's silence was held and a tribute film shown before Sunday's air displays began at 13:00 BST.

There has been speculation he was trying to avoid houses when he crashed.

Brian May, from rock group Queen, who spent a day with the team recently described Flt Lt Egging, known as Eggman, as "a hero in anybody's book".

He said: "These men and women are the hardest of nails. But their humanity and wickedly humorous team spirit was a joy to be around.

"It's plain that Jon sacrificed his life yesterday to save civilians below, as he piloted his stricken Hawk jet away from housing, finally ejecting only when it was too late to save his own life.

"This is a heart-breaking time for the whole team, a time which will test their courage in even more ways than usual.

"We send them our heartfelt condolences to them and to Eggman's wife and family. We salute you Jon."

The number of books of condolence open in the Bournemouth for public tributes has now been increased to six.

The council said since 10:00 more than 1,500 people had been through the Town Hall doors to sign them, and people were still queuing to do so late on Sunday afternoon.

Hawk T1 fleet grounded

The Union Jack flag outside the Town Hall has been flying at half mast and many people have been laying floral tributes on the grass banks nearby.

Flowers were also laid close to the crash site in Throop, where a cordon remains in place.

The Red Arrows display team, along with the rest of the RAF's Hawk T1 fleet, has been grounded while investigators try to establish the cause of the crash.

Dorset Police said Flt Lt Egging was thrown from the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses described seeing his plane hit the ground in a field by the River Stour and then skidding for several hundred metres along the riverbank.

Shortly before the crash, his wife, Dr Emma Egging, had watched him take part in the display.

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Media captionAmateur footage shows one of the Red Arrows flying at a lower height

She said later: "Watching him today, I was the proudest I've ever been. I loved everything about him, and he will be missed."

Gp Capt Simon Blake, the commandant of the RAF Central Flying School, said the Ministry of Defence had begun an investigation into the cause of the crash and all Red Arrows Hawk T1 aircraft had been grounded as a standard safety measure.

He said: "At this juncture it is too early to speculate as to the cause of the accident.

"In accordance with normal policy the Ministry of Defence has appointed a service inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and... have grounded the Hawk T1 temporarily until its safety can be assured.

"As for the rest of the season it is too early to speculate as to when the Red Arrows will be back on the public circuit but suffice to say for the short term they will not be able to perform in public."

The Red Arrows are based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, and the rest of the Hawk T1 fleet is based at RAF Valley in Anglesey. The entire Hawk T1 fleet, which stands at more than 170 aircraft, has been grounded.

'Nose in river'

The Military Air Accident Investigation Branch has started an inquiry.

Flt Lt Egging's aircraft was one of nine Red Arrows planes to take part in the display over the seafront.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption The plane plunged into a field near the River Stour

The RAF said Flt Lt Egging, who grew up in Southam, Warwickshire, joined the team in the autumn of 2010 and flew on the right hand outside of the famous Diamond Nine formation.

Nicholas Gore, 22, was walking with a friend close to the river when he saw all nine Red Arrows overhead.

"There were quite a few people watching and we saw them go over but one seemed quite low," he said.

"They then disappeared behind trees and I heard a crack, not an explosion, just a crack and we got further down and I saw the plane with its red tail in the air and its nose in the river."

People can sign the books of condolence at Bournemouth Town Hall up until 20:00. They will also be available for signing throughout the week.

Initially two books were opened but due to high demand, a third book was opened at 12:30.

But people were still waiting for up to an hour to sign so the council later opened another three books.

A separate book has been made available for all pilots taking part in the Air Festival.

Mayor of Bournemouth, councillor Chris Rochester, earlier opened the tributes, writing: "My sincerest sympathy goes out to Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging's family, friends and colleagues.

"The whole town is shocked and devastated by this tragic accident, and on behalf of the people of Bournemouth, I pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant Egging's skill and bravery. May he rest in peace."

The council said it would hand the books to Flt Lt Egging's family, along with any donations given by members of the public for the family's chosen charity.

All nine Red Arrows display pilots are fast jet pilots from frontline Royal Air Force squadrons.

Flt Lt Egging joined the RAF in 2000 and served with IV(AC) Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore, flying the Harrier GR9 in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Red Arrows have used the dual control BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft since 1979.

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