An inquest into the Shoreham Airshow crash has got underway – seven years after the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 11 men and injured 13 other people. And West Sussex corone Penelope Schofield began by apologisingto the families of those who died for their seven-year wait for answers.
The disaster occurred after a plane which was taking place in an aerial display crashed on to the nearby A27 in West Sussex on August 22 2015.
Andrew Hill, who was piloting the Hawker Hunter plane, was subsequently charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019. He insists he has no recollection of the crash.
The inquest into the 11 deaths was originally opened on September 2, 2015 but Mr Hill’s criminal trial forced its adjournment.
The inquests resumed in March 2019 after the trial, but hearings set for September 2020 were adjourned once again, this time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A pre-inquest review was heard on September 1 where senior coroner Penelope Schofield said the inquest “would not reinvestigate the crash”, as this evidence had been provided by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
The inquest is set to run until December 20, and Mr Hill will not be called as a witness, having submitted evidence to the investigation.
His request at the pre-inquest review for Mrs Schofield to rule out a verdict of unlawful killing was denied.
Opening the full inquest in Horsham on Wednesday, Ms Schofield said: “On a sunny summer day on August 22 2015 at around 1.32pm, 11 men were killed and numerous other people suffered significant injuries when a former military Hawker Hunter aircraft ladened with fuel doing an aerobatic display at the Shoreham Airshow crashed onto the A27 in the most horrific circumstances.”
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“After seven years, they are finally about to get some answers on how this disaster happened.
“The coroner’s conclusions will not bring their loved ones back, but there will be some solace in the hope that the findings lead to improved safety in the planning of future air shows.”
The 11 victims 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.