Shoreham disaster: Victims honoured at memorial service

Lancing College Chapel Image copyright Ash Mills
Image caption Lancing College Chapel overlooks the scene of the Shoreham crash

The victims of the Shoreham air disaster and the "human courage" of the emergency services have been honoured in a memorial service in West Sussex.

Relatives and 999 staff gathered for the event, organised by emergency workers and community leaders.

The Bishop of Chichester, who led the service, said the tragedy "sliced through the fabric of our life".

Emergency officer Paul Sutton said: "A uniform cannot prepare someone for those memories."

'Unanswerable question'

Eleven men were killed in the crash on 22 August when a vintage Hawker Hunter jet failed to complete a loop at the annual Shoreham air show and plummeted into the busy A27.

The memorial service, three months on, took place in Lancing College's gothic chapel which overlooks the scene of the devastation.

Leading the service the Bishop of Chichester, The Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, said the tragedy left one unanswerable question: "Why?"

He praised the "human courage, generosity and compassion" of the emergency services and said this was a time when "grief must blend with love" in a celebration of those who died.

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

'Horror and disbelief'

Names of the victims were read out ahead of a minute's silence at 13:22 GMT, the time of the crash.

The congregation then sat in silence while candles were lit by representatives of each family in memory of those who died.

Family members gave readings and emergency service personnel gave personal reflections on the rescue effort.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Emergency service personnel were deeply affected by what they experienced that day

Sean Ruth, chief fire officer at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said there was no time for crews to prepare mentally for what they were to deal with, "but in spite of that they did what we expect of them".

Sussex Police Chief Constable Giles York spoke of how "a day like any other" turned out to be anything but for the 18 officers who reported for duty that morning.

He told the service: "They watched in horror and disbelief, with everyone else, as the plane came down... The scale and nature of the incident made it one of the most challenging scenes ever faced by the emergency services in this county.

"Thoughts constantly turned to the fact that there would be families with loved ones who would not be returning home."

Paul Sutton, chief executive of SECamb, spoke of the "difficult and challenging" task the ambulance service faced, and said: "I can never be more proud of what our staff do and did that day."

He added: "Most poignantly in our minds are the families of those who sadly lost loved ones."

'Terrible loss'

In the days after the crash, thousands of flowers, cards, pictures and messages of condolence were left on the Shoreham Tollbridge, which became known as the "Bridge of Flowers".

Image copyright PA
Image caption It is hoped the event will help the community to heal after the tragedy on Saturday 22 August

Some of the thousands of messages left were on view at the chapel, alongside several books of condolence.

After the service, Communities Secretary Greg Clark expressed his sympathies to the grieving friends and relatives.

And he hailed the "bravery and professionalism" of West Sussex's emergency teams, describing them as "world class".

At the scene: The BBC's Chris Bennett

Eleven candles, each lit by the families of one of those lost, flickered in the broad nave of Lancing College Chapel.

At 1.22pm - three months to the minute since the crash - those gathered fell silent for a minute to remember.

This was a personal and intimate service, where the families, the emergency services and people from the wider community recalled with sadness and affection the 11 men - fathers, sons and brothers - who died on a summer's day.

Below the chapel, in the Adur Valley, you can see the old toll bridge that crosses the river and which, within days, was covered by flowers and tributes by local people.

A permanent memorial is planned. And, if you wanted a sign that Sussex people still care and care deeply, then you saw it today in Lancing College Chapel.

Image caption Families and 999 workers joined together for the intimate service at Lancing College chapel
Image caption The chapel was bathed in sunlight as the congregation arrived for the service on Saturday

Shoreham crash: What we know

  • The crash happened when a vintage Hawker Hunter jet failed to complete a loop at the annual Shoreham show and plunged into the busy A27 below
  • The cause of the crash is yet to be established
  • An initial report by The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found there were "no abnormal indications" during the plane's flight
  • It said cockpit cameras showed the 1950s Hawker Hunter jet was responding to the pilot's controls
  • The pilot, Andy Hill, survived the crash but is yet to be interviewed by police

The victims

  • 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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