Sussex

Shoreham air crash trial: Survivors tell of fireball horror

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

Survivors of the Shoreham air crash told a court of their horror as they watched a jet aircraft hurtling towards them.

One spectator at the air show in West Sussex told the Old Bailey: "I thought it was going to hit me."

Another was told by his daughter: "Dad, your face and ears are gone."

Andrew Hill, 54, who was flying the Hawker Hunter jet, denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence during a display at the show in August 2015.

The court has heard that 11 people - many of them lining the busy A27 outside the airfield - were killed when Mr Hill's plane crashed during an aerobatic stunt.

Mr Hill "miraculously escaped" with head injuries and rib fractures when the aircraft broke up and he was thrown into a ditch.

But many of those who survived told jurors of the moment the plane crashed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Shoreham Airshow has not been staged again since the disaster

In a statement read to the court, software engineer Thomas Milburn said: "I thought it was going to hit me. I... put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.

"Through my eyelids I saw a bright orange light. I felt extreme heat through my skin.

"I really thought I was going to die. I realised I had been engulfed or partially engulfed by a fireball."

Mr Milburn, from Worthing, West Sussex, who suffered burns to his arms, legs and back, said he ran along the road towards the airfield.

"As I was running, I realised the skin on my hands and arms felt loose," he said.

"I felt I was lucky to be alive."

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Media captionJurors were shown two clips of the fatal crash

Paul Snellgrove, who was watching the show with his family, said he noticed the plane was "going slow and low".

He said he heard a crunch and was thrown over a buggy. "I started to feel a burning sensation down my face," he said.

"I was in absolute agony.

"My daughter said, 'Dad, your face and ears are gone'. I shouted, 'Run'."

'Absolutely terrified'

A third person, Peter Reed, leapt from his burning car while it was still moving.

"I had the strongest impression that my vehicle was on fire and it was going to explode," he said.

"I felt my arms were hot where I had been burnt, but otherwise, I felt unscathed."

He said there was thick black smoke and cars burning.

"At the time my vehicle was engulfed in flames - I was absolutely terrified."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The court heard the aircraft erupted in a "massive fireball" when it hit the ground

Mr Reed said that since the crash, he had suffered flashbacks and had difficulty sleeping.

Former RAF pilot Christopher Heames, who trained Mr Hill on Hawker Hunters, said the defendant's preparation was "second to none".

"His preparation for every flight was meticulous and detailed. He was an example of how it should have been done," Mr Heames told the court.

The jury was shown a video of the Hunter attempting a loop-the-loop and the plane coming down behind a line of trees before exploding.

A commentator could be heard saying: "That's such a beautiful aeroplane."

Moments later, as it exploded, the commentator said "Oh" then became silent.

The trial continues.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Andy Hill survived the crash in which his jet crashed on to the A27 during an air display
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

The men who died

  • Matt Jones, a 24-year-old personal trainer
  • Daniele Polito, 23 was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones
  • 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, had gone to watch the display on his Suzuki motorbike and was standing next to the road
  • James "Graham" Mallinson, 72, from Newick, was a photographer and retired engineer

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