Shoreham airshow disaster: 11 men who died in plane crash were unlawfully killed, coroner rules

The 11 victims of the Shoreham airshow disaster Credit: PA

The 11 men who died when a plane crashed at the Shoreham Airshow were unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.

A Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed onto the A27 during an aerial display at the event in West Sussex on 22 August 2015.

The conclusion was reached on Tuesday afternoon - more than seven years after the incident, which injured 13 other people including the pilot, Andrew Hill.

West Sussex Senior Coroner Penelope Schofield said: “Eleven innocent lives were cruelly lost, lives that were cut too short.

"This huge loss will be borne by their families for the rest of their lives.”

The aftermath following the tragic plane crash at Shoreham airshow Credit: PA

“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.”

She added each man “was unlawfully killed when a Hawker Hunter T7 aircraft crashed while attempting an incorrectly flown looping manoeuvre”.

Ms Schofield said: “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 ground 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, Senior Coroner Penelope 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 G-force experienced by the pilot during the manoeuvre was probably not a factor in the crash.”

A number of the victims’ family members were present and were in tears as the conclusion was delivered at County Hall in Horsham.

Sarah Stewart, of Stewarts law firm, which represents a number of the Shoreham Airshow victims’ families, said: “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 22 August 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.”

The coroner has ruled the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham airshow disaster were 'unlawful' Credit: PA

Mr 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 recollection of the crash.

He was not called as a witness, having submitted evidence to the investigation.

Mr Hill’s request at the pre-inquest review in September for Ms Schofield to rule out a verdict of unlawful killing was denied.

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.

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