Shoreham plane crash death toll ‘could reach 20’

Emergency services and crash investigation officers work at the site where a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed onto the A27 road at Shoreham near Brighton, Britain August 23, 2015. © Luke MacGregor
Fatalities among the victims of the Shoreham air show crash could rise to 20, police in the area have said, prompting calls for a reappraisal of the rules surrounding aerial displays.

Some 11 fatalities occurred after a Hawker Hunter jet failed to pull out of a loop maneuver during a display on Saturday afternoon, crashing into cars and cyclists on the A27.

Emergency services will recover the wreckage on Monday afternoon. Police believe more bodies could be discovered.

“To give people a sense of scale and also the number of people we are trying to work with in terms of the movements of their loved ones, then I would be really surprised if it would be more than 20,” Sussex Police assistant chief constable Steve Barry said in a statement.

“Today, there is a plan for a crane to come and the plan is for the plane to be moved and then for the recovery to continue.

“The plane needs to be made safe. There are issues around fuel in the aircraft still and there is an issue around making sure the ejector seat is still safe.

“Hopefully the aircraft will be moved today. What that will uncover in terms of further recovery work is unknown and it’s possible that once the aircraft is moved that we will discover more fatalities.

“Once the aircraft is moved then the forensic examination of the scene continues and even then, once that’s clear, the highway will need major repairs, so it could be days rather than hours before the A27 is opened,” he added.

The aircraft crashed on Saturday afternoon, killing motorists, cyclists and two semi-professional footballers.

Pilot Andrew Hill survived the crash, but is in a critical condition. It was revealed on Monday that he was not intended to be flying the plane. Chris Heames was listed in the programme as the official pilot of the Hawker Hunter. 

Sussex Police released a statement on Monday morning on behalf of the pilot's family expressing their sorrow at the loss of life. 

"Following the tragic events at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday, the pilot's family are devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life, and they send their prayers and heartfelt condolences to the families of all those affected at this difficult time.

"Andrew Hill, remains in critical condition. He has multiple injuries and is in a medically induced coma. His family pay tribute to the emergency services for their highly professional response following the accident and to the medical team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital for the care they are continuing to provide to Andrew" they added. 

Speaking to RT, one eyewitness described the resulting fireball “horrific.” 


“We could see for a fraction of a second the aircraft skimming the tree tops in front of Lancing College before the double fireball. We didn’t know at the time that the reason for the two distinct fireballs was that the aircraft had broken into two at the road and had therefore exploded into two separate parts,” he said.

“Gasps, screams and shouts ran out across the crowd and the Commentator had barely any words.

“There was then a silent period before people of all ages and genders started to cry. Children were obviously really unnerved by what they had seen and that was a terrible thing to watch. The crowd then returned to total silence and most just wanted to leave and go home as this had been a terribly traumatic event for many.

The Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday evening that it may overhaul the current rules for aircraft performing in shows.

They said crowds could be made to stand hundreds of meters away from the displays and planes may have to perform stunts at a higher altitude.

It is believed the aircraft was travelling at 400mph when the stunt was performed, with one expert saying the aircraft was flying below the 500ft minimum threshold for displays.