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Shoreham Airshow crash: Pilot Andrew Hill placed into medically induced coma

Death toll expected to rise to 20 as search operations continue at crash site

By Staff Reporter

Published 24/08/2015

Critical condition: Andy Hill
Critical condition: Andy Hill
The huge fireball which claimed the lives of at least 11 people after the jet crashed while trying to perform a stunt at Shoreham Airshow
Flowers laid on the Shoreham Tollbridge over the River Adur near the site where an historic Hawker Hunter fighter jet plummeted on to the A27
Two shirts and floral tributes outside Worthing United Football Club
Victim Matt Jones
Footballer Matthew Grimstone
Smoke following the crash. @Cromwell606/PA Wire.
Smoke billows above the crash site. @keirstanding/PA Wire.

The pilot of the jet which crash landed during the Shoreham Airshow has been placed into a medically induced coma, his family have confirmed.

Andrew Hill was behind the controls of a vintage 1950s Hawker Hunter jet when it suddenly plummeted from the sky as it was performing a loop-the-loop.

Video footage shows the plane fail to pull out of the manoeuvre before crashing to the ground, exploding into a fireball as it ploughed into cars on the busy road.

At least 11 people have been confirmed dead and Sussex Police have said they would be "surprised" if the death toll was more than 20.

Many people, who would have gathered on the roadside to watch the show, are also thought to have been caught up in the disaster.

Worthing United footballers Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, and 24 year-old personal trainer Matt Jones - were among those killed in the crash.

The driver of a wedding car, on route to pick up a brides, is thought to be among those killed.

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Family and friends of those suspected of being caught up in the carnage have spoken of their desperate attempts to get into contact with their loved ones.

Mr Jones’s mother, Hazel, described her son as an “absolute diamond”, while the family of Mr Grimstone said they had lost “the kindest person”.

The family of pilot Andrew Hill said they are "devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life" of those involved in the tragedy.

Friends of those killed were among those who attended a special church service in Shoreham, eight miles west of Brighton, to say prayers for the victims as residents said they hoped the accident would not result in the closure of the town’s long-running airshow, which raises money for charity.

In a statement, Mr Hill's family said: "Following the tragic events at the Shoreham Airshow on Saturday, the pilot's family are devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life, and they send their prayers and heartfelt condolences to the families of all those affected at this difficult time.

"Andrew Hill remains in critical condition. He has multiple injuries and is in a medically induced coma.

"His family pay tribute to the emergency services for their highly professional response following the accident and to the medical team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital for the care they are continuing to provide to Andrew."

Pilot Hill was originally not intended to fly the ill-fated plane, having been drafted in to replace the original pilot last month.

However,  the Royal Air Forces Association (Rafa), which organises the Shoreham Airshow in West Sussex, said he and the original intended pilot were both experienced airmen.

It defended its safety record saying standards at air displays in Britain were "among the very highest in the world".

Rafa said it is giving "every assistance" to the Air Accident Investigations Branch which is probing what caused the crash, but warned the investigation "will take some considerable time".

Recovery of the wreckage of the aircraft is expected to take place later today.

Sussex Police assistant chief constable Steve Barry said: "To give people a sense of scale and also the number of people we are trying to work with in terms of the movements of their loved ones, then I would be really surprised if it would be more than 20."

He added: "Today there is a plan for a crane to come and the plan is for the plane to be moved and then for the recovery to continue.

"The plane needs to be made safe. There are issues around fuel in the aircraft still and there is an issue around making sure the ejector seat is still safe.

"Hopefully the aircraft will be moved today. What that will uncover in terms of further recovery work is unknown and it's possible that once the aircraft is moved that we will discover more fatalities."

He said a forensic search of the scene will then commence. The A27 will need major repairs following the crash and could be shut for several days, he added.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch appealed for the public to send video footage and photos of the crash for its investigation via enquiries@aaib.gov.uk.

Footage and pictures of the incident can also be sent to police, who urged people to contact them on shoreham.airshow2015@sussex.pnn.police.uk before sending any files.

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