Shoreham crash pilot’s family ‘devastated’ by tragedy

Andy Hill as he appears on the Ultimate High website
Andy Hill as he appears on the Ultimate High website
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The family of the pilot involved in the Shoreham air crash have said they are “devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life” of those involved in the tragedy.

Andrew Hill is fighting for his life while 11 others are believed to have been killed when his Hawker Hunter jet plummeted on to the A27 below.

Sussex Police said they fear the death toll could rise to 20 people.

In a statement released today, Mr Hill’s family said: “Following the tragic events at the Shoreham Airshow 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.”

Mr Hill is one of a number of experienced pilots who fly for Ultimate High, which offers pleasure flights and training at Goodwood Airport near Chichester.

Its website says: ‘Like many on the Ultimate High staff, Andy started his career flying Bulldogs on a University Air Squadron, and after excelling on fast jet training was ‘creamed off’ and went straight into instructing on the Jet Provost.

‘He then operated the Harrier GR5/7 in Germany. After flying the A340 and B757/767 his day job is captaining an Airbus.

‘He is a very experienced formation instructor and display pilot, and regularly displays the RV-8, Jet Provost and Hunter.’

Video footage shows the plane fail to pull out of a loop-the-loop before crashing to the ground, exploding into a fireball as it ploughed into cars on the busy road below.

Three people - Worthing United footballers Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, and 24 year-old personal trainer Matt Jones - were among those killed in the crash.

Motorcyclist Mark Trussler, from Worthing, is missing, while fears have also been raised over Daniele Polito, a father from Worthing, who was travelling in the same car as Mr Jones when the plane crashed.

Mr Polito’s family said they have not heard from the former Worthing College student since the air disaster - but asked friends to remain hopeful.

Ruth Cox, who said her daughter has a son with Mr Polito, said on Facebook: “Daniele Polito is still missing - he was with Matt Jones on their way back from work when the plane crashed, he is my grandson’s dad.”

Marina Polito, believed to be Daniele’s sister, said on Facebook: “Nothing has been confirmed that Daniele is gone.”

Family members of Mr Polito answered the door to their home, but said they do not want to talk about the crash.

The crash has sparked calls for safety precautions at public air shows to be tightened.

Mr Grimstone’s mother Sue has called for acrobatic displays to be restricted to taking place over the sea to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

But the Royal Air Forces Association (Rafa), which organises the Shoreham Airshow in West Sussex, defended its safety record.

It said safety standards at air displays in Britain “are among the very highest in the world”.

It added: “All air display arrangements, including the pilots and aircraft, must meet rigorous safety requirements and are regularly reviewed to ensure they provide the highest possible levels of protection.

“At Shoreham we have always taken those safety arrangements very seriously.”

Rafa confirmed that Mr Hill was not originally meant to pilot the plane. Chris Heames was originally listed as the pilot in the air show’s programme, and it was only decided last month that Mr Hill would fly the aircraft instead.

But Rafa stressed that both men were highly experienced pilots who would often swap the shows they performed at.

It said: “Two highly-experienced pilots (both with current Civil Aviation Authority display authorisations) regularly displayed the aircraft in question.

“They shared their air show commitments between them and it was entirely routine that a change from one to the other was made - and this decision was made over a month ago. The pilot flying the Hunter on Saturday had displayed at last year’s Shoreham Airshow.”

Rafa said it is giving “every assistance” to the Air Accident Investigations Branch which is probing what caused the crash, but warned the investigation “will take some considerable time”.

The driver of a Daimler wedding car, who was on his way to pick up a bride for her wedding service, is also believed to be among those killed.

Recovery of the wreckage of the aircraft is expected to take place later today.

Sussex Police assistant chief constable Steve Barry said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

He said a forensic search of the scene will then commence. The A27 will need major repairs following the crash and could be shut for several days, he added.

The AAIB appealed for the public to send it video footage and photos of the crash for its investigation via enquiries@aaib.gov.uk.

Footage and pictures of the incident can also be sent to police, who urged people to contact them on shoreham.airshow2015@sussex.pnn.police.uk before sending any files.

At mid-day, a crane started to lift debris from the crash site where the aircraft slammed into the ground.

Recovery of the plane is expected to be completed by today and its sections then sent to Farnborough in Hampshire to be examined by AAIB investigators.