Seven Killed as Air Show Plane Crashes on Road

An air show on England\'s south coast turned to horror when a Hawker plane crashed into a busy bypass, hitting cars and killing seven people.

Published: 23rd August 2015 08:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd August 2015 08:40 AM   |  A+A-

LONDON:  An air show on England's south coast turned to horror yesterday when a Hawker plane crashed into a busy bypass, hitting cars including a wedding limousine, and killing seven people.

The plane struck at least four cars on the A27 near Brighton, after failing to pull out of a loop manoeuvre at the Shoreham Air Show in time.

A Daimler, believed to be registered to a wedding car hire company, was caught up in the crash. It is not known if any members of a wedding party were among the victims.

The Hawker pilot was last night believed to be in a critical condition after being pulled from the wreckage.

It is the sixth disaster at an air show over the past seven years, resulting in a total of six deaths before yesterday's incident, including a fatality in 2007 at the Shoreham event.

Dramatic footage showed the plane bursting into flames as it hit the road near Shoreham Airfield, where the display was taking place yesterday. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun an inquiry.

Seven people died, a further two were taken to hospital, one with life threatening injuries, and 14 people were treated at the scene. Witnesses described seeing

two firebombs in the sky as the 1950s plane, piloted by Andy Hill, a British Airways captain and a former RAF instructor in his 50s, failed to emerge from the stunt.

Chris Blewett, 47, an off-duty paramedic from Worthing, West Sussex, was watching from a riverbank when the plane crashed.

"It was doing a big loop the loop land I thought, 'That's coming in low' and then there was a massive fireball," he said. "There were many burnt-out cars and motorbikes lying on their side. It was absolute carnage."

The crash happened at 1.20pm during a display at the show to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Royal Sussex County Hospital was put on major alert at 2pm and told to expect casualties as police shut the road, disrupting hundreds of holidaymakers.

The Hawker crashed near a former pub, the Sussex Pad, close to Lancing College, which the pounds 10,000-a-term boarding school has converted into dormitories for its pupils. The children are still on their summer holiday.

Sue Pack, the wife of the former pub's landlord, said: "When Lancing College bought the pub from us to turn into dormitories for the boys they insisted the air show shouldn't be held when the children where there, during term time." She added: "I was on the beach watching the air show when I suddenly saw this huge plume of smoke and knew something terrible had happened."

Tina Tilley, the chief executive of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, saw the crash from the VIP area at the show. "From where we were we could see the jet came down very low and looked like it was going to scoop up - but it didn't," she said.

"There were several flames and we knew it was right on the A27. Everyone was horrified and there were people crying."

David Wildridge, who had flown with the Tiger Nine display earlier yesterday, said Mr Hill was an experienced pilot. "Andy Hill was a British Airways captain and very well thought of," he said. "He is a highly experienced pilot, well-known and well-loved. He is highly professional and it is totally unusual for this to happen.

"He was a Harrier pilot in the air force. They are the top RAF pilots - the best of the best." Mr Wildridge added: "His wife was also a British Airways captain and our thoughts are with the family."

Mr Hill, from Surrey, is well known for his aerobatic and air show display flying. He joined the RAF in 1985 from university and gained his wings in 1987. Recognised as a talented pilot, he then returned to the RAF training centre at Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorks, to teach students.

After leaving the RAF, Mr Hill became a civilian pilot, flying the Airbus A340 and Boeing B757 and B767 before becoming an Airbus captain. Mr Hill and his wife, Ellie, spent two years building an RV-8 display aircraft.

A spokesman for West Sussex Police said: "A number of people are known to have died when a historic military jet crashed into a busy main road at Shoreham in Sussex.

"The Hawker Hunter was taking part in an air show at the airport adjacent to the A27 when it crashed on to the road and ended up in a bush.

"Emergency services have declared a major incident and a number of helicopters have been deployed to the scene to evacuate casualties to hospital. South East Coast Ambulance Service have confirmed that there have been seven fatalities declared at the scene. One patient with serious life-threatening injuries has been transported to Royal Sussex County Hospital and a further 14 patients treated for minor injuries."

Kevin Whyman, 39, a pilot, died earlier this month when his plane crashed during a display at the CarFest festival, founded by Chris Evans, the new Top Gear presenter.

In September 2007, Brian Brown, 49, a stuntman for the James Bond films, died when he crashed a Second World War Hurricane at the Shoreham airfield after carrying out an unplanned barrel roll during a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain.


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