Victims of Shoreham Airshow crash were unlawfully killed

Eleven men who died when Hawker Hunter jet crashed onto A27 at Shoreham Airshow were unlawfully killed after pilot made ‘significant errors’ during aerial display, inquest rules

  • Andrew Hill crashed into A27 in Hawker Hunter aircraft while performing stunt
  • The horror crash in Shoreham, West Sussex, killed 11 men on August 22, 2015
  • Pilot was later found not guilty of 11 counts of manslaughter in March 2019
  • A coroner today said her conclusions should not detract from the verdicts
  • But she ruled it was ‘clear and obvious’ Mr Hill should have abandoned the stunt

Eleven men who died when a plane crashed onto the A27 during the Shoreham Airshow were unlawfully killed after its pilot made ‘significant errors’, a coroner has ruled. 

Andrew Hill crashed into the A27 in a Hawker Hunter aircraft while performing a manoeuvre during an aerial display at the event in West Sussex on August 22, 2015. which injured 13 people including himself.  

The pilot was subsequently charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence, but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019. He maintains he has no recollection of the crash.

Delivering her verdict seven years on from the crash today, Senior Coroner Penelope Schofield said that although her conclusions should not detract from the not guilty verdicts in Mr Hill’s trial, she ruled it was ‘clear and obvious’ the pilot should have abandoned the stunt.

Andrew Hill, the pilot of the Hawker Hunter plane which crashed at Shoreham Airshow, pictured in February 2019

Emergency services on the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex following the crash on the major road in August 2015

Top row .left to right: Matthew Grimstone, Matt Jones, Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell and Mark Trussler. Bottom row, left to right) Dylan Archer, Richard Smith, Graham Mallinson, Maurice Abrahams and Daniele Polito

A crowd at the airshow watches on as an explosion erupts following the crash, killing 11 people

 The critical moment prior to the horror crash, with the 1950s Hawker Hunter shown heading towards the ground

August 22, 2015, 1.22pm: A vintage Hawker Hunter jet flown by pilot Andrew Hill crashes mid-stunt on to the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex during an airshow, killing 11 men.

August 23: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Sussex Police all launch probes into the crash.

August 24: The CAA temporarily grounds all Hawker Hunters and limits vintage jets to flypasts during airshows.

September 2: The identities of all 11 victims are officially confirmed as an inquest is opened and adjourned by West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield. 

December 15: Hill is interviewed by police officers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team under caution after voluntarily attending a station near his Hertfordshire home but is not arrested.

April 14, 2016: The CAA says it is tightening rules for all show organisers when it publishes its final report in the wake of the crash.

July 8: It emerges police are investigating Hill for manslaughter by gross negligence and endangerment of life under air navigation laws.

January 24, 2017: The CAA agrees to accept all the safety measures made by the AAIB in the wake of the tragedy, meaning stricter safety rules for pilots and organisers, after it initially rejected almost half of the recommendations.

March 3: The AAIB publishes its findings in a 219-page report following one of its longest investigations in recent years. Investigators found the disaster was caused by the pilot flying too slow and too low.

The families hugged each other and cried after the coroner said their loved ones died following a series of gross errors before a verdict of unlawful killing was given.

Mr Hill had attended the inquest a number of times since it began on November 30 and submitted evidence to the investigation, but he was not present for Ms Schofield’s conclusion today.

Lawyers representing some of the victims’ families hinted they will not pursue a civil case, saying they had ‘come to the end of their road’ following the inquest.

Delivering the narrative verdict to a packed courtroom in County Hall North in Horsham, Ms Schofield said: ‘Eleven innocent lives were cruelly lost on August 22 2015. Lives that were cut way too short.

‘This huge loss will be worn by the families for the rest of their lives. It has been a long journey, some seven years for you, to get the answers you wanted.

‘It has been a difficult journey getting to this stage. I hope you feel that through these proceedings, you now have a voice.’

Commenting on the pilot’s actions during the incident, the coroner added: ‘This was not a close or difficult judgment call.

‘Even experienced pilots on the ground could see (the plane) was too low. The poor position of the plane in the sky was a further significant error – this plane should not have been lined up with a dual carriageway.’

She continued: ‘The crash occurred because the aircraft’s speed on entry into the manoeuvre was too slow and the thrust applied by the pilot in the upward half of the manoeuvre was insufficient.

‘The aircraft did not achieve sufficient height at the apex of the manoeuvre to complete it before impacting the ground because the combination of low entry speed and low engine thrust in the upward half of the manoeuvre.

‘Despite the aircraft being significantly short of the minimum apex height to complete the manoeuvre safely, the pilot did not perform an escape manoeuvre.

“The deaths occurred because the aircraft crashed on the A27 due to a change of ’round track during the manoeuvre which positioned the aircraft further east than planned, producing an exit track along the dual carriageway.

Listing the ‘series of gross errors’ that led to the 11 deaths, Ms Schofield said: ‘The pilot appeared conscious throughout. The aircraft responded to the pilot’s control inputs.

‘The pilot either did not perceive that an escape manoeuvre was necessary or did not realise that one was possible at the speed achieved at the apex of the manoeuvre.

‘There was no evidence of any G-related impairment of the pilot during the aerobatic sequence flown.

The Hawker Hunter is seen flying just metres above the busy dual carriageway moments before the fatal crash

Smoke billowing from the A27 following the crash in August 2015, killing 11 people

‘The G-force experienced by the pilot during the manoeuvre was probably not a factor in the crash.”

The coroner finished her conclusions by reading out the names of all 11 men who died in the incident.

They were Anthony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; Daniele Polito, 23, from Goring-by-Sea; Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton; Jacob Schilt, 23, from Brighton; James Mallinson, 72, from Newick; Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; Matthew Grimstone, 23, from Brighton; Matthew Jones, 24, from Littlehampton; Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton; and Richard Smith, 26, from Hove.

Sarah Stewart, partner at law firm Stewarts who represented a number of families in the disaster, said following the hearing today: ‘The families we represent would like to thank the senior coroner for her thorough investigation.

‘The senior coroner has found that the deaths of the 11 innocent men in the Shoreham Airshow disaster on August 22 2015 were avoidable.

‘The bereaved families have waited more than seven years to reach this point, and although the senior coroner’s conclusion will not ease the pain of their loss, their voices have been heard.’

Asked whether the families they represent would be pursuing civil action, she added: ‘The families we represent have come to the end of their road, their journey after seven long years this is the end of the road.’

Who were the 11 victims of the 2015 Shoreham air disaster?

Maurice Abrahams

Maurice Abrahams, 76:

Chauffeur Mr Abrahams, from Brighton, was en route in his classic Daimler to collect bride Rebecca Sheen and take her to her wedding when the plane crashed.

A former police officer with Hampshire Constabulary, he was an ex-member of the Grenadier Guards and Parachute Regiment, and had served in Cyprus and Bahrain with the UN.

In his later years, he enjoyed working for East Sussex-based Chariots Chauffeurs as well as gardening.

His funeral was held at St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean, where he had driven brides to their weddings countless times.

Married to Edwina, Mr Abrahams had a son, Eddie, and daughter Lizzie.

Graham Mallinson

James Graham Mallinson, known as Graham, 72:

Retired engineer Mr Mallinson, from Newick, near Lewes, had gone to Shoreham to photograph one of the last Vulcan bomber flights.

Relatives said he was kind and generous with a ‘great sense of humour’. 

He was a private and loving family man, they added.

A lifetime member of the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, married father Mr Mallinson had recently developed an interest in photographing vintage aircraft.

Father-of-six Mark Trussler

Mark Trussler, 54:

Father-of-six Mr Trussler, a window cleaner from Worthing, had taken his motorbike for a spin on the day of the tragedy as he had also wanted to see the Vulcan flight.

While in Shoreham, he texted his fiancee Giovanna Chirico telling her to get the children ready so they could take them out for lunch on his return home.

She told him she loved him and his last words to her were, ‘I love you too, forever’.

A motorbike and rugby fan, he was also described as a doting father.

 Tony Brightwell, 53:

Health care manager Mr Brightwell, from Hove, was indulging his twin passions of planes and cycling when tragedy struck.

His fiancee Lara watched him cycle off to watch one of the last Vulcan bomber flights, ‘but he never came home’, she said.

Mr Brightwell gained his private pilot licence at Shoreham, loved food and cooking, and admired Second World War pilots.

Dylan Archer, 42, and Richard Smith, 26:

IT consultant Mr Archer, a father of two who lived in Brighton, and Mr Smith, who lived in Hove, were due to meet up with a third friend to head out for a cycle ride in the South Downs.

Mr Archer, who grew up in the Midlands, had a lifelong passion for bikes and cars, and rode the bike he made himself on the day he died.

Dylan Archer and Richard Smith were due to meet up with a third friend to go on a cycle ride when they were killed in the Shoreham tragedy 

After going to university in Birmingham, Buckinghamshire-raised Mr Smith worked in a bicycle shop in Cosham, Portsmouth.

He later moved to Hove where he worked in marketing and web development at ActSmart, a firm that specialises in providing advice to the cycle industry.  

Mark Reeves, 53:

Computer-aided design technician Mr Reeves, from Seaford, near Eastbourne, had parked his motorbike to take photographs of planes when the crash happened.

A grandfather, relatives described him as a ‘sun worshipper’ who would often be seen relaxing with a cocktail in hand on holiday.

His family said he was combining two favourite hobbies of riding his cherished Honda bike to take photographs at the air show.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23:

The two Worthing United footballers were travelling together in a car to a 3pm home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash.

Mr Grimstone’s parents Sue and Phil and brothers David and Paul called him the ‘kindest person you could ever meet’.

Team-mates said Mr Schilt was a ‘tenacious midfielder’ with an eye for a goal.

Mr Grimstone had also worked at Brighton & Hove Albion for seven years, most recently as a groundsman at the Lancing training ground.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, were travelling to Worthing United to play in a home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash

Matt Jones, 24, and Daniele Polito, 23:

Father Daniele Polito, from Worthing, was travelling in the same car as personal trainer Matt Jones when tragedy struck.

Mr Polito’s mother Leslye Polito said on the first anniversary of the disaster that the previous 12 months had failed to ease her loss. 

A keen DJ, Mr Jones had reportedly recently returned to the UK from living in Australia.

Matt Jones and Daniele Polito both died in the same car  

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