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Altar candles lit at church service to remember Shoreham air crash victims

Published 20/08/2016

A rainbow over floral tributes on the Old Shoreham Tollbridge near the A27 after the disaster
A rainbow over floral tributes on the Old Shoreham Tollbridge near the A27 after the disaster

Eleven altar candles were lit by victims' families at a church service to remember the 11 men killed in the Shoreham air crash, ahead of the disaster's first anniversary.

The names of those who died when a vintage Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 in West Sussex during the Shoreham Air Show last August 22 were read out.

Prayers were said for victims and their families, marking a day described as one that "started like any other day, but will now always be remembered by so many as a day like no other".

Some of the relatives and friends of the 11 men who died attended the service, including Giovanna Chirico, 32, whose fiance Mark Trussler, 54, was killed as he went to see the Vulcan flight.

Other relatives included Leslye Polito, whose 23-year-old son Daniele died. She said: "The last year I couldn't put into words. It's been a roller coaster. It's a living nightmare. It's all surreal."

Caroline Schilt, whose son Jacob, 23, died, said of the service: "It was amazing to organise something like this and to come together.

"It's lovely for the families to share in this awful thing in a strange sort of way."

The service, organised by Shoreham Churches Together, was held at the ancient, Grade-I listed St Mary de Haura Church in Shoreham-by-Sea, led by the Rev Canon Ann Waizeneker.

In an address by the Rev Terry Stratford, associate priest of St Mary de Haura, he 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: "As much as we might wish otherwise, there seems to be no option but to wait. There can be no real moving on until all that can be humanly known about the air crash is revealed and resolved."

He spoke of the poignancy of the first anniversary of the crash, and praised the response of 999 crews called out to deal with the immediate aftermath.

He added: "Even if we were not present at Shoreham Airport, I am sure we can all recall how and when we heard or realised the enormity of what had happened.

"Now, one year on, the whole community of Shoreham has an opportunity to come together in this ancient church, this sacred place, and reflect for a while on those 11 lives so suddenly and violently taken away.

"The suffering and shock of unexpected loss, as the bonds of love and family life were traumatically ruptured. Also in this service we think again of the commitment and expertise of those members of the different emergency services who were involved in this fatal disaster."

The service was held two days before the first anniversary of the crash, which happened when the 1950s' plane failed to pull out of a loop-the-loop manoeuvre during the air show.

On Monday, flowers will be laid and a minute's silence held on the wooden Shoreham Tollbridge, which became a focal point for the community in the crash's aftermath, at 1.22pm - the exact time of the disaster.

Victims' families, emergency service officers and civic leaders are expected to attend. Meanwhile, flags will be flown at half-mast at civic buildings across West Sussex.

West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: "Throughout the last year our thoughts have been with the families who lost loved ones. This tragedy has had a massive impact on the community and touched so many lives."

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.

A full report into the crash is expected to be released by the AAIB later this year. This year's Shoreham Air Show was cancelled out of respect for victims and their families.

The 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.

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