Shoreham air crash: Pilot was involved in previous 'airshow incident'

Shoreham air crash Image copyright EPA
Image caption A Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 during the airshow in August

The pilot flying a jet which crashed at the Shoreham airshow was involved in an incident at a different airshow a year before, it has emerged.

Sussex Police has told relatives of 11 men who died they are investigating an incident at the Southport Airshow in 2014 in which a vintage jet is believed to have flown too low.

At the Shoreham event in August, a Hawker Hunter jet crashed.

Pilot Andy Hill was thrown free from the aircraft. The 11 died at the scene.

Image copyright Zak Hussein
Image caption Pilot Andy Hill was interviewed by police in December

Det Ch Insp Paul Rymarz said the force was aware of an incident at the Southport Airshow in September 2014.

"This incident forms a line of inquiry in our wider investigation.

"All the families are aware of our interest in this incident," he said.

Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent

I've just been speaking to the man who was commentating at the Southport airshow on the day that this happened. George Bacon is an expert from the British Air Display Association, so he knows his stuff.

He told me that the plane was flying too low and very slightly over the crowd line, which is not allowed, and the display was stopped.

But George also says there was never any immediate danger, that it was never "life threatening".

He described it as an "occurrence", not an "incident" (less serious in effect), saying Andy Hill was always in control of the aircraft.

And he stressed the point that this kind of transgression can happen to any pilot and for all sorts of reasons - sun in the eyes, moving to avoid a bird or another aircraft, a strong wind.

"Even the Red Arrows can misjudge the strength of the wind", he told me.

He wanted to make the point that display pilots are not risk-takers.

A spokesman for the CAA said it was aware of an incident in 2014, and had been informed of the Sussex Police investigation.

At the time, he said, the CAA took appropriate action in conjunction with the show's organisers.

"The CAA continues to support the police and AAIB with their investigations," he said.

Mr Hill was interviewed by police in December. No arrests have been made.

BBC South East correspondent Mark Norman said the parameters of the "very wide-ranging, complex ongoing investigation" had yet to be revealed.

At Shoreham, the vintage jet, which had been performing aerobatics, crashed on the A27 dual carriageway.

Footage captured by witnesses showed a large fireball engulf the area around the crash site.

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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