Shoreham air crash: Survivors tell of sleepless nights

Aircrash fireball Image copyright EPA
Image caption The 1950s Hawker Hunter jet crashed into cars on the A27 trunk road in West Sussex

One year on from the Shoreham air crash, those who witnessed the horror of what happened that day - and who in some cases narrowly avoided being killed themselves - have been recalling their experiences.

In the 12 months since the disaster, in which 11 people died as a vintage Hawker Hunter jet plunged into traffic on to the A27, bystanders have spoken of sleepless nights and difficulties in coping with what they saw.

These are their stories.

Image caption Adur district councillor David Lambourne said he felt the force of the blast on his chest and face

Former paramedic David Lambourne, 71, was preparing a family barbecue in his back garden in Lancing and watching planes fly over his house.

"I saw the Hawker Hunter go up and it looked a bit odd, like he was going to stall," he said.

"Then I felt a shockwave on my chest and the air pressure on my face. It was like someone punched me.

"I ran upstairs and shouted to my wife Lyn that something had happened. We looked out of the bedroom window and saw the smoke."

Image copyright Police handout
Image caption Wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams was killed in the crash

One of his friends, chauffeur Maurice Abahams, was killed in his Daimler car.

"We both worked in the wedding hire business for years and both drove a Daimler. He did my daughter's wedding. Lovely man."

Mr Lambourne, who is also a local councillor, said he wanted the air show to return at some point - organisers decided not to stage the annual event this year.

"I'm really worried it might not get off again," he said.

"I think most people around here would like to see it operate again. Shoreham Airport needs to make money, as does the Royal Air Forces Association that ran the show."

Shoreham air crash: The victims

Image copyright PA
Image caption The crash left a trail of debris on the A27

Web designer Neil Lewer, 49, remembered the site as "like a warzone, bits of debris, grey misty smoke and road signs peppered with bits of shrapnel".

He had driven his wife, daughter and one of his sons to the air show from their home in Redhill.

He said: "We go down there every year. If we'd been sitting in the same spot as last time, we would've been killed.

"We had been there about an hour on the grass verge with our camping chairs, a parasol, blankets and a packed lunch.

"When the Hawker came over, he pulled up and banked. I lost sight of him behind the bushes.

"I was starting to crouch down when I heard this loud 'whompf'. Then this fireball and wreckage was going past 20ft from us.

"We were stood transfixed in a state of shock. My daughter was screaming and we ran about 30m to the access road.

"We were in a daze as we rushed back to our car, I noticed my shirt was badly damaged, so I threw it off."

He added: "I don't think air shows should be banned but my wife will never go to another one.

"It's difficult, people who go to air shows as spectators appreciate there's a bit of risk, but not those killed in the cars."

Image copyright Sunday Mirror
Image caption Terry Smith's camera captured this moment of the crash as he pushed his young daughter into bushes to try to protect her from the impact of the fireball

Photographer and aviation enthusiast Terry Smith, 60, from Worthing, said he has had "long sleepless nights" since witnessing the crash with his eight-year-old daughter.

He had persuaded her to go to watch the show and met an old friend, taking photos of the displays while their girls played.

"The Hunter was pretty low and fast and banked up into the sky. I lost sight of it and knew in that instance it was going to go terribly wrong and couldn't believe what was happening.

"You knew it was blowing up. It was frightening. The wreckage came to a rest just opposite, a road's width. Then there was this fireball heading towards us at 400mph.

"The heat was burning our skin, it was that hot. My only thought was to protect my daughter. I pushed her back to the bushes and put myself between her and the heat. I got hit on the leg by a small fragment of debris and was in pain for days.

"You could see loads of tiny bits from the wreckage. There was one car with the top sliced off. I knew I couldn't do anything for them.

"My daughter said 'Daddy I want to go home'. As we walked back, we looked at the sky and saw smoke from the fireball dispersing in the wind, like a spider tattoo.

"She didn't talk about it at all. A few months ago I was thinking of going to the Farnborough air show and was talking in code with my wife.

"Our daughter heard us and said: 'It's OK we can talk about Shoreham now'."

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption Eddie Mitchell took this photograph of the burning wreckage

Freelance photographer Eddie Mitchell had gone to the air show to work for a local paper and the BBC.

"I was in the press area when it happened. Nobody really knew where the crash was and didn't realise a plane had bounced in the road.

"The organisers told everyone to sit tight and let the emergency services do their thing.

"Nobody knew it was as horrendous as it was. A lot of people were getting frustrated as they didn't know the main exit road was blocked."

He reached the crash site and realised the large loss of life.

"You could tell from the way the emergency services were acting that the decimation was so bad and there wasn't much they could do.

"It was so horrific, the firefighters having to step over bodies. You couldn't imagine what had happened.

"Some of us there would have suffered post-traumatic stress. I haven't been to an air show since. It would be macabre if I saw another plane doing manoeuvres."

Image caption Worthing United FC's Mark Sanderson realised something terrible had happened to one of the club's players when he saw his car amid the wreckage

Footballer Matt Grimstone was driving team-mate Jacob Schilt in his car to a match at Worthing United FC when the plane came down, killing them both.

Club secretary and vice-chairman Mark Sanderson recalls the moment he and manager Nigel Geary suddenly feared the worst.

After preparing the pitch in the morning, Mr Sanderson was driving back to the ground when he saw a plume of black smoke and heard a radio travel report about an incident on the A27.

"We were getting phone calls from players delayed in the traffic.

"Some arrived but we hadn't heard from Matt or Jacob. Nigel tried to ring them and it was unusual for their phones to go to voicemail.

"Then some people were seeing videos of the crash on YouTube and Nigel came up to me ashen-faced, saying: 'Look at this'.

"One of the clips showed Matt's car. It's then we thought something terrible had happened.

"It was at some point on Sunday afternoon when their families gave us permission to release their names."

Image caption Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt were known to their team-mates as "Grimbles" and "Snoobs"

The club postponed matches and called a meeting of the playing staff.

"We told them we would understand if they didn't want to play again, with two of their friends, their right-hand men, wiped out," he said.

"They all wanted to carry on."

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