England

Shoreham Airshow crash: Pilot prosecution delays inquest until 2019

Emergency services at the crash site Image copyright PA
Image caption The Hawker Hunter jet plummeted on to the A27 on 22 August 2015

The inquest into the deaths of 11 men killed in the Shoreham Airshow crash is unlikely to take place before mid-2019, a coroner has said.

It will not be held until the case against pilot Andy Hill, who is to be charged with manslaughter, is over, senior coroner Penelope Schofield said.

The men died when Mr Hill's vintage jet crashed on the A27 on 22 August 2015.

MP Tim Loughton says he is concerned it will have taken four years for the whole process to be completed.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced on Wednesday that Mr Hill, of Sandon, Hertfordshire, will be charged with the manslaughter by gross negligence of the 11 men who died when his plane came down on the A27, next to Shoreham airport, during an aerobatics display.

He will also be charged with endangering an aircraft and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 19 April.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pilot Andy Hill survived the Hawker Hunter jet crash but now faces manslaughter charges

Ms Schofield also cancelled Monday's pre-inquest review because of the decision to charge Mr Hill.

In a statement West Sussex County Council said: "Due to the nature of the charges, the full inquest must now await the conclusion of the criminal case. The coroner has said she does not anticipate the full inquest will take place until mid-to-late 2019."

Mr Loughton, whose East Worthing and Shoreham constituency includes the airport, has criticised the time it has taken for a decision to be made to prosecute because of the extended delay relatives of the victims now face.

He said: "Many of us fail to understand why it has taken 31 months to make that decision... more than a year on since the Air Accident Investigation [Branch] (AAIB) produced its very comprehensive report about the details of the accident.

"However, without pre-judging the outcome of the trial, that report [left] many questions unanswered [that] can hopefully now be addressed in the proceedings of the court case."

Airshow crash timeline

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Shoreham Airshow has not been staged again since the disaster
  • 22 August 2015 - Hawker Hunter jet flown by Andrew Hill crashes on to the A27 at Shoreham, killing 11 men
  • 23 August - Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), Civil Aviation Authority and Sussex Police launch investigations
  • 22 November - Memorial service for the victims
  • 15 December - Police interview Mr Hill, who was seriously injured in the crash, under caution
  • 3 March 2017 - AAIB publishes its report
  • 1 November - Families' initial application for exceptional case funding legal aid is rejected
  • 24 January 2018 - A pre-inquest review is postponed until 26 March to allow prosecutors more time to consider the case file
  • 21 March - After informing victims' families, the CPS announces Mr Hill is to be charged with 11 counts of manslaughter
  • 22 March - West Sussex senior coroner postpones pre-inquest review until 22 February 2019 and reveals full inquest is unlikely to be held before mid-2019

Mr Loughton says he also plans to renew efforts to secure "exceptional cases" legal aid for the families of the 11 men at the inquest on the grounds that the outcome will have widespread ramifications.

Aviation lawyer James Healey-Pratt, who represents many of the relatives, said: "There is no closure from all these processes until they finish."

The victims

Image copyright BBC/Sussex Police/Facebook
Image caption (Top row, left to right) Matt Jones, Matthew Grimstone, Jacob Schilt, Maurice Abrahams, Richard Smith. (Bottom row, left to right) Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Daniele Polito, Dylan Archer, Graham Mallinson
  • Matt Jones, a 24-year-old personal trainer
  • Matthew Grimstone, 23, a Worthing United footballer who worked as a groundsman at Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Jacob Schilt, also 23 and also a Worthing United player, was travelling to a match with Mr Grimstone
  • Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton, was a chauffeur on his way to pick up a bride on her wedding day
  • Friends Richard Smith, 26, and Dylan Archer, 42, who were going for a bike ride on the South Downs
  • Mark Reeves, 53, had ridden his motorcycle to the perimeter of Shoreham Airport to take photos of the planes
  • Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove was an aircraft enthusiast and had learnt to fly at Shoreham airfield
  • Mark Trussler, 54, is thought to have been riding his motorcycle on the A27
  • Daniele Polito was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones
  • Graham Mallinson, 72, from Newick, was a keen photographer and retired engineer

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