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Shoreham Airshow inquest ‘only chance’ for families to ask questions about probe

(Sussex Police/CPS/PA)
(Sussex Police/CPS/PA)

The Shoreham Airshow inquest is the “only chance” the victims’ families have to ask questions about the investigation, the inquest has heard.

A Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed on to the A27 during an aerial display at the air show in Sussex on August 22 2015, killing 11 men and injuring 13.

The inquest continued on Friday with lawyer Jim Morris, representing the families of Matthew Grimstone and Mark Trussler, questioning Julian Firth of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) for a third day.

Mr Firth was the principal inspector investigating the crash.

The AAIB concluded the plane crashed because it began a looping manoeuvre too low to the ground and its entry speed and thrust were too low.

During the hearing, senior coroner Penelope Schofield asked Mr Morris to conclude his questions due to the inquest running over time.

Mr Morris responded: “This is the only opportunity for my families to question the investigators about the report. It is crucially important to them that all relevant questions are asked.

“The families have waited seven years and it would be extremely unfair – they instructed me to conduct relevant questioning so all the facts within the report are highlighted.

“There are facts in this report that are hidden – they need to be clarified and it’s very important in terms of your conclusions.

Shoreham Airshow crash inquest
Ten of the victims: Matthew Grimstone, Matt Jones, Mark Reeves, Tony Brightwell, Mark Trussler, Dylan Archer, Richard Smith, James Mallinson, Maurice Abrahams and Daniele Polito (PA)

“The sisters of Mr Trussler and Mr Grimstone’s parents have indicated they would be more than happy, provided that happens, for this inquest to go into next year, it’s that important.”

Ms Schofield said she “does sympathise with the families” and allowed Mr Morris to continue his questioning, which concluded at midday on Friday.

During the accident manoeuvre the pilot, Andrew Hill, rolled the plane by 60 degrees when he intended to roll 20 degrees. The 60-degree rotation is what brought the plane in line with the A27.

Mr Morris asked: “The plan was to rotate around 20 degrees, but over-rotating in the vertical, that’s the reason the fatalities on the A27 have been caused?”

Mr Firth replied: “Because the aircraft exited the manoeuvre, exited along the A27, that’s why the aircraft ended up where it did.”

Mr Morris said: “If he had rotated 20 degrees and it had crashed, it would have crashed in the display line and there would have been no fatalities?”

Shoreham Airshow crash inquest
Andrew Hill (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Firth replied: “I can’t say.”

Mr Morris asked: “During this type of flying display it’s crucial that the pilot in command of the aircraft doesn’t make any mistakes, isn’t it?”

Mr Firth replied: “Yes, other than minor mistakes that don’t affect the aircraft. Flying at a low level reduces the scope for mistakes.”

Mr Morris said: “These are very serious mistakes, aren’t they?”

Mr Firth replied: “We highlight in our report the potential significant mistakes and the reasons they might have been made.”

The inquest continues.