THE former owner of the fighter jet which crashed at the Shoreham Airshow, killing 11 men – including a former worker from Cosham – has told a court how he watched its last flight and feared it would end in disaster.
Thomas Moloney, who has been a pilot for about 30 years, bought the Hawker Hunter in 1997 from the Ministry of Defence and refurbished it before selling it on to company Jet Heritage.
He was at the event on August 22 2015, and was watching the display with friends and family at the other side of the West Sussex airfield, when the plane failed to complete a loop and crashed in a fireball on the A27, engulfing spectators and motorists.
Among those to die included Richard Smith, a 26-year-old who worked at the Cosham bike shop before moving to Hove for work.
Giving evidence at the Old Bailey on Friday in the ongoing trial of pilot Andrew Hill, Mr Moloney said: ‘It was a lovely day.
‘There were light winds and fairly clear skies, almost perfect display weather.’
As he watched the display he noticed the plane was slowing down as it went into the manoeuvre.
He said: ‘At the time I was quite shocked as the air speed was quite slow.’
He told the court he had a ‘sickening feeling’ and turned to his friend, who was also a pilot, and, referring to Hill, said: ‘Well, he's dead then,’ as he realised the crash was ‘inevitable’ because there was not sufficient altitude to pull out of the stunt.
He told the court he turned away after seeing the ‘huge fireball’.
Hill was left in a critical condition after the crash and placed in an induced coma before later being discharged from hospital.
One of the first medics on the scene described the devastation which faced him as emergency services tried to save Hill's life.
Red Cross nurse Tony Kemp told jurors he had to climb through undergrowth to make his way towards the plane and could see ‘a lot of debris’ as the blaze from the aircraft still raged in the background.
He saw between 30 and 40 people being led away for medical assistance and at one point the team realised firefighters were no longer able to tackle the nearby flames as they had run out of water, he said.
He found Hill lying flat on the ground without a helmet and originally thought he was unconscious, but then saw his eyes opening as he started to respond to questions.
In a recording played to the jury of the moments after the crash, Hill is barely audible and can be heard groaning as medics try to talk to him.
He was heard saying ‘ow, ow, ow’ and ‘Come on guys, take me away, take me away’, according to a transcript read to the court.
Mr Kemp said: ‘I remember he had quite a lot of blood around his face.’
He had symptoms consistent with a head injury and his medical condition was getting worse, Mr Kemp said.
He was becoming more agitated, trying to move, and was struggling to follow the conversation, which had to be repeated, he added.
Then he ‘collapsed very rapidly’ and was at risk of having a cardiac arrest but the team managed to save his life.
He was sedated with 50mg of ketamine and taken to hospital.
Mr Kemp told the court that without immediate medical treatment he would have died at the scene.
Hill, 54, denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.
The trial, expected to last eight weeks, continues.