Shoreham air disaster victims remembered
Communities fell silent today to remember the 11 men killed in the Shoreham air crash, exactly one year on from the disaster.
A minute’s silence was held at 1.22pm - the precise time the vintage Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 in West Sussex during the Shoreham Airshow.
Names of the 11 who died when the 1950s’ plane came down in front of thousands of spectators last August 22 were read by the Rev Canon Ann Waizeneker.
Flowers were laid at the memorial, which is being held near the crash site at the wooden Shoreham Tollbridge, which became a focal point for the community following the tragedy.
Victims’ families, emergency service officers and civic leaders attended the event and flags were flown at half-mast at civic buildings across West Sussex.
At Worthing United FC, a two-minute applause was held followed by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims, who included their players, Portsmouth University graduate Jacob Schilt and Matthew Grimstone, both 23.
As the community remembered, Leslye Polito, whose 23-year-old son Daniele was among the 11 who died, said the passing of time has not made her loss easier.
Ms Polito, from Worthing, said: “The last year I couldn’t put into words. It’s been a roller coaster. We try to celebrate Daniele for all the good, fun things but it’s a living nightmare. It’s all surreal.”
Mr Schilt’s mother Caroline Schilt said some solace was gained from sharing the pain with others. She said: “It’s lovely for the families to share in this awful thing in a strange sort of way.”
Ms Polito and Mrs Schilt were among victims’ relatives who attended a service on Saturday at Grade I-listed St Mary de Haura Church in Shoreham.
Eleven altar candles were lit by family members before the names of those killed were read out and prayers said to remember the lost lives.
The Rev Terry Stratford, associate priest of St Mary de Haura, said the community still shared “a sense of loss and bewilderment”.
Families touched by the disaster felt continuing pain at still not knowing the full story behind how their loved ones were killed, he said.
He said: “The difficulty is we still don’t have an outcome, we don’t know the reasons why, officially, yet.
“We are looking for those reasons to be made public. Unfortunately we might not know for quite a long time, but let us hope that the process is done properly.”
Thousands of cards and messages left at the tollbridge after the crash have been dried out and now form part of an archive available to view online.
West Sussex county archivist Wendy Walker said: “We think it is the first time that an archive of this kind has been preserved in this way.”
The disaster was the deadliest at a British airshow since the 1952 Farnborough crash when a de Havilland DH.110 hit spectators, killing 31.
It emerged last month that the pilot, Andrew Hill, 52, is being investigated over possible manslaughter by gross negligence. He has been questioned voluntarily under caution by police.
Sussex Police last month applied to the High Court to see “protected records” held by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
Police want access to copies of reports relating to human factors, engineering, tests and speed calculations as well as film footage of the flight, records of interviews with Mr Hill and a risk assessment report.
Two compensation claims have so far been settled with the owners of the plane, according to Stewarts Law, the firm representing some of the victims’ families.
The disaster prompted the Civil Aviation Authority to ground all Hawker Hunter aircraft and ban vintage jets from performing aerobatics over land.
The AAIB published a preliminary report in March which revealed that the organisers of the air show did not know Mr Hill’s intended routine.
It was not possible for officials to identify potential hazards before the event without being aware of where the pilot would fly, the special bulletin stated.
David Miller, acting chief inspector of air accidents, said: “Today marks the first anniversary of the Shoreham air display accident, the worst in the UK since the Farnborough Airshow in 1952. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.”
A full report into the crash is expected to be released by the AAIB later this year. This year’s Shoreham Airshow was cancelled out of respect for victims and their families.
The 11 men who died were: wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton; retired engineer James Graham Mallinson, 72, from Newick, near Lewes; window cleaner and general builder Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; cycling friends Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton, and Richard Smith, 26, from Hove; NHS manager Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; grandfather Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Worthing United footballers Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23; personal trainer Matt Jones, 24; and Daniele Polito, 23, from Worthing.