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Shoreham air disaster victim's fiancee tells of crash heartbreak

Published 28/08/2015

Investigators continue to work at the scene of the crash on the A27 at Shoreham
Investigators continue to work at the scene of the crash on the A27 at Shoreham

The fiancee of the latest Shoreham air disaster victim to be named has spoken of her heartbreak that their plans to spend their lives in the sun will now never happen.

Sussex Police officially named Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove, East Sussex, as among at least 11 victims to have died when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed on the A27.

His fiancee Lara said she watched him cycle off excitedly to watch one of the last Vulcan bomber flights at the Shoreham Airshow - "but he never came home".

Police have released pictures from the scene of the disaster - as communities touched by the tragedy prepare to fall silent one week on.

Mr Brightwell, a health care manager for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Hove City Council, was indulging his twin passions of planes and cycling when tragedy struck.

His fiancee said: "He was the love of my life, my soul-mate and I am devastated that our plans of a life in the sun in a few years' time won't now happen.

"He was a kind, loving man who always helped others and just enjoyed spending time with family and friends over a bottle of red wine.

"I watched him cycle off into the sun on his treasured ridgeback bike to watch the air show at Shoreham for a couple of hours, but he never came home."

Mr Brightwell gained his private pilot licence at Shoreham, loved food and cooking, and admired Second World War pilots.

He leaves his fiancee, daughter Gemma, sister Judy, nephew Adam, parents Barbara and Ernie and best friend Andy.

Meanwhile, in the images released by Sussex Police, forensic investigators are seen gathering clues on the debris-strewn A27, while another picture appears to show an external fuel tank lying intact.

The release of the pictures came as locals prepare to hold a minute's silence at 1.20pm tomorrow - exactly a week since the crash during the Shoreham Airshow.

And they emerged as the sister of Daniele Polito, a father from Worthing, spoke of her sense of loss in a posting on her Facebook page.

Marina Polito wrote: "I know many people loved him and will miss him loads, but as long as we keep him in our hearts and memories, he will never really leave us.

"I miss you loads already little (big) bro! Keep making people smile, love you always xxx."

Sussex Police have not officially confirmed his death.

Among those who will be remembering the victims tomorrow will be local residents who will gather at a wooden tollbridge near the crash site.

Hundreds of floral tributes have been laid at the bridge, which has become a focal point for the community to remember those who lost their lives.

Tomorrow night a candlelit vigil will be held at the Adur Ferry Bridge as part of Shoreham's annual River Fest event this Bank Holiday weekend.

And a minute's silence will also be observed at the Remembrance In The Park event in Lancing Manor tomorrow, council officials said.

Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin said: "These community events demonstrate the strength of the feelings shared by everyone who has been touched by this tragedy.

"The experience of sharing a minute of silence is so powerful and will be a fitting moment of reflection one week on."

Worthing Borough Council leader Daniel Humphreys said: "At times such as these, opportunities to come together are more important than ever."

Grandfather Mark Reeves, 53, who died after parking his motorbike on the outskirts of Shoreham Airshow to take photographs of the planes, is among the victims.

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

Personal trainer Matt Jones, 24, also died, along with wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams, 76, an ex-soldier who had served in the Parachute Regiment. Motorcyclist Mark Trussler is missing and also feared dead.

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

The disaster rocked the community, which has rallied by donating more than £15,000 to an online appeal, while a local nursery offered free childcare to victims' families and survivors.

The A27 has been closed since the crash, and Sussex Police said it is due to reopen on Bank Holiday Monday.

The plane wreckage has 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.

The jet's pilot, Andrew Hill, was left fighting for his life after the crash, and has now been moved to a specialist hospital for treatment.

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