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Shoreham air disaster pilot moved to specialist hospital

Published 26/08/2015

Work continues on the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex
Work continues on the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex

The pilot of the Shoreham air crash jet has been moved to a specialist hospital for treatment, an NHS trust spokesman has confirmed.

Andrew Hill was left fighting for his life after the vintage Hawker Hunter he was flying plummeted on to the A27 below, killing at least 11 people.

The busy road has been closed since the crash on Saturday, and Susses Police have announced that it is due to reopen on Bank Holiday Monday.

Mr Hill had been placed in a medically induced coma at the Royal Sussex County Hospital following the incident, but has now been moved to an undisclosed location.

A spokesman for the Brighton and Hove NHS Foundation Trust said: "He (Mr Hill) is in a critical but stable condition, but has been moved to an unnamed specialist hospital."

It is believed the jet's seats were in place when it was found, suggesting that Mr Hill may not have ejected before impact.

The jet is understood to have not been carrying a black box flight recorder.

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

West Sussex County Council's senior coroner Penny Schofield said the formal identification of the victims has begun.

But the plane crashed with such force that specialists - including forensic archaeologists, anthropologists, odontologists and pathologists - are having to examine the DNA, teeth and human remains to discover who was killed in the disaster.

Ms Schofield said: "Recovery of all the remains from the scene is almost complete due to the extremely hard work and dedication of police teams and archaeologists, who have been working in extremely difficult conditions."

"We will now begin the formal process of identifying all the victims of this horrific tragedy.

"Recovering all the remains has been a very slow and painstaking operation, but it has been necessary to ensure we establish, without doubt, individual positive identifications."

Ms Schofield has met with the families to explain the process and, once identification is complete then she will open inquests into these deaths.

The remains of the plane have been sent to Farnborough, Hampshire, where Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigators will seek to find out what caused the crash. An interim report is due in the next few days.

Placing flowers near the site of crash, Sussex Police Chief Constable Giles York vowed to get answers for all those who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

He said: "First and foremost, on behalf of Sussex Police, I offer my sincere condolences to everyone affected by this awful, tragic incident which has had a significant impact on communities across Sussex.

"It will always live in the memories of this community and some people will bear the scars for a very long time to come."

He added: "We are determined that we will find answers for families who have lost their loved ones, we have 24 dedicated family liaison officers helping families and we are working in support of the coroner to allow her to carry out her inquests.

"The reaction from local people has been really heart-warming. I am incredibly impressed with how the community has responded and I must pay tribute to our own staff and those of the other emergency services and agencies who have responded to what is a dreadful scene."

Mr York asked those wanting to pay their respects to visit the Shoreham Toll Bridge where tributes are already being laid.

Referring to the reopening of the road, he said that it will reopen on Monday after three days of repairs, but will be reduced to a single lane each way - causing some delays.

There will not be any access from the A27 to Lancing College and the airport for some time.

Earlier, a father told of how he and his young son survived the disaster thanks to the kindness of wedding limousine chauffeur Maurice Abrahams.

Mr Abrahams, 76, a former soldier who had served in the Parachute Regiment, died in the blaze that engulfed drivers when the jet crashed.

Michael Sturgess described how Mr Abrahams generously let him on to the busy road - putting them just out of danger when the plane plummeted down behind them.

He told the BBC: "I had come on to the A27, and then he let me in because the traffic was so bad. We went through the traffic lights, the traffic lights went red and that's when he got hit."

Mr Sturgess said his eight year-old son Louis watched in horror as the plane crashed on to the busy road and exploded into flames.

He said: "My little boy saw it all happen... as I went around the bend the plane came down and he saw everything - my eight year-old Louis, my little boy."

Mr Sturgess said he felt "very sad" at what happened, and lucky to be alive.

Mr Abrahams was driving a classic Daimler on his way to pick up bride Rebecca Sheen when the plane struck him.

The names of six men believed to have been killed in the tragedy have emerged, but Sussex Police say they believe the death toll is 11.

The four confirmed victims include Worthing United footballers and best friends Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, who were on their way to play a match when they were killed.

Personal trainer Matt Jones, 24, also died, along with Mr Abrahams.

Motorcyclist Mark Trussler and Daniele Polito, a father from Worthing, are both missing and are feared to have been killed in the tragedy.

An airshow scheduled to take place at Durham Tees Valley Airport on Saturday has been postponed in light of the tragedy.

Skylive Events announced that the incident, together with the Civil Aviation Authority's decision to impose restrictions on the operation of air shows, meant that the event would not be going ahead as scheduled.

The event has been rescheduled for Saturday May 28 and tickets issued for this weekend will remain valid for next May.

Chris Petty of Skylive said: "Obviously this is not a decision we have taken lightly because we appreciate that thousands of people were looking forward to having a great day out this Saturday.

"We had put together an excellent programme of events but clearly the tragedy at Shoreham has forced us to consider very carefully whether it would be right to go ahead.

"Together with the airport we have come to the conclusion that in the aftermath of Shoreham, especially the restrictions announced by the CAA which would have seriously limited the flying displays of the jet aircraft scheduled to take part - including the Avro Vulcan and the aircraft from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight - it would have significantly reduced the quality of the central element of the event.

"That is why we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone the show until next May when hopefully we will know the outcome of the review of civil air display safety which the CAA has now begun.

"We remain committed to delivering a high-quality event and that is what we will be working on once we have resolved the matters which have to be addressed in the light of this weekend's postponement."

Durham Tees Valley airport manager Shaun Woods added that he felt the decision to postpone was the right one, and that safety has to be the primary concern.

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