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Shoreham Airshow disaster looked ‘like something from Hollywood film’, witness says

File photo dated 24/09/15 of emergency services on the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex where seven people died when an historic Hawker Hunter fighter jet plummeted onto the major south coast road after failing to pull out of a loop manoeuvre. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday November 30, 2022. An inquest into the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham Airshow is to begin seven years after the disaster. See PA story INQUEST Shoreham. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Bystanders at the disaster told the inquest the crash was ‘devastating and upsetting’ (Picture: PA)

The ‘devastating’ Shoreham Airshow disaster looked ‘surreal’, with one witness thinking it was part of the show, an inquest has heard.

Eleven people were killed and 13 others injured when a Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed into the A27 during an aerial display at the air show in Sussex on August 22, 2015.

Witnesses described their horror at seeing a ‘massive fireball’ during an inquest that opened last week.

Off-duty policeman Andrew Boydell, who spent the day at the airshow with his father and a friend, said the horrific scene was like something out of a Hollywood movie.

Describing what he saw as his father drove them out, he said: ‘I could see the plane in front of me coming out of a roll heading towards the ground and it appeared to be too low.

‘I saw a large fire ball from behind the tree line about 200m away.’

Saying he was shocked, he added: ‘I could see large amount of black smoke rising into the air.

‘I could see an ambulance with people standing around looking shocked, bleeding, with clothes missing.’

Undated family handout file photos of (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, who died in the Shoreham Airshow crash, after a vintage Hawker Hunter jet crashed killing 11 men when it hit a road and burst into a fireball during a failed stunt at Shoreham Airshow. A vintage fighter jet crashed killing 11 men when it hit a road and burst into a fireball during a failed airshow stunt. An inquest into the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham Airshow is to begin seven years after the disaster. Issue date: Wednesday November 30, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story INQUEST Shoreham . Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The victims of the Shoreham Airshow disaster; 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 (Picture: PA)
Shoreham air disaster victim Jacob Schilt with girlfriend Megan DuffyFacebook
Shoreham air disaster victim Jacob Schilt (Picture: Facebook)

PC Boydell, who identified himself as a police officer and offered to help, added: ‘I could see badly a damaged car, cars smoking, utter destruction like something out of a Hollywood film.’

Sergeant Christopher Bryant, a uniformed Sussex Police officer who was providing security at the event, said he felt ‘helpless’ following the crash.

He said: ‘I was standing about 200 metres away from the fireball and I could see fire and smoke from two locations.

‘The surreal silence I will never forget. I thought it might be part of the show until the commentator said the plane had crashed and gave his condolences to the pilot and his family.

‘We were aware there was a serious incident but nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. I believe what I saw will have a lasting effect on me and my colleagues, it was devastating and upsetting.’

Meanwhile, Joseph Jones, who worked as a steward, said he heard an ‘explosion and slam’ from about 100 metres away.

He added that he ‘thought it was part of the show’ at first.

‘I watched the crash afterwards to understand what happened. It didn’t affect me as I was far away and I didn’t see anything gory or nasty’, he said.

Undated Handout file video grab issued by Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Office of the aircrash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22 2015 where Pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men. Issue date: Wednesday November 30, 2022. PA Photo. An inquest into the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham Airshow is to begin seven years after the disaster. See PA story INQUEST Shoreham. Photo credit should read: Sussex Police/CPS/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The 1950s Hawker Hunter plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men (Picture: PA)

Bystander Neil Lewer, who was standing watching the airshow with his family, remembered ‘seeing the Hawker Hunter coming in above us when it started to pull up to begin the loop’.

He said: ‘I have experience of how a loop should look and I was thinking “he’s going to pull up in a second”, then “oh s***, he’s not going to pull up”.

‘I could hear the ear-piercingly loud scream of the jet engine. I looked to my left as a fireball and wreckage went flying past us – it was hot and there was the smell of burning in an instant.’

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

Julian Firth of the Air Accidents Investigations Branch told the inquest the AAIB concluded the plane crashed because it began the manoeuvre too low to the ground.

Its entry speed and thrust were too low during a loop, it was stated.

The inquest continues.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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