Families bereaved by Shoreham Airshow crash call for ‘fearless’ inquest
There were 11 deaths after a Hawker Hunter exploded into a fireball after attempting a loop.
The families of the 11 men who died in the Shoreham Airshow crash have called for a “thorough and fearless” inquest which is likely to re-examine the actions of the pilot.
Andrew Hill had been attempting a loop when his Hawker Hunter exploded into a fireball on the A27 in West Sussex on August 22 2015.
He was placed into an induced coma after being thrown clear of the burning wreckage and surviving the crash.
An Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) report published in 2017 found the crash could have been avoided and was caused by pilot error when Mr Hill flew too low and too slowly while carrying out the manoeuvre.
Last month the former RAF and British Airways pilot was cleared of 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence at a trial at the Old Bailey.
At the time the relatives of the victims said they were devastated by the verdict.
An inquest into their deaths is anticipated to take place in early 2020.
At a pre-inquest review in Crawley Town Hall on Monday, Gerard Forlin QC, who represents the majority of the victims’ relatives, said: “They want a full, frank, thorough and fearless investigation into this matter.”
Senior coroner Penelope Schofield, who is presiding over the inquest, told the administrational hearing which was packed with family members that she was not considering enlisting a jury to take part in the full hearing.
But Mr Forlin said this was vital for the inquiry and asked her to delay making a final decision.
His calls were supported by lawyers representing other relatives.
Jim Morris, of Ashford Solicitors who represents the family of 23-year-old victim Matthew Grimstone, said the inquest would consider “similar key issues” to the criminal trial including the actions of the pilot and particularly re-examine the cockpit footage of the crash.
He said this was a “crucial part of the inquest” and called for the inquiry to be given the “gravitas it deserves”.
It means Mr Hill could be called in front of another jury to give evidence for a second time.
Ms Schofield told the court Mr Hill had been unable to attend the latest hearing and was not represented but may wish to be at future hearings.
She did not confirm whether he would be called to give evidence in person or if transcripts of his evidence at trial would be considered instead.
The role of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airshow organisers is also likely to be scrutinised during the inquest.
The coroner would have to take the Government to court to gain access to evidence about the crash held by the AAIB, the hearing was told.
The independent body is part of the Department for Transport and its chief inspector reports directly to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
Documents and footage of the cockpit are protected materials under aviation law, restricting the coroner from having access without permission from the High Court.
Obtaining this would be lengthy and could cause further delays to the inquiry, the hearing was told.
Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service previously had to apply for access to the same material in order to use it during the criminal trial.
Mr Forlin said an appropriate venue was also “crucial” to ensure a proper hearing took place after it emerged the building where West Sussex Coroner’s Court is based and the town hall are set to be demolished.
More than 100 people are expected to attend the full inquest, which was initially due to take place in the autumn but has now been delayed because the complexity of the case.
An exact date is yet to be confirmed.
Another pre-inquest review is due to take place in the summer on a date yet to be set.
The court heard emergency legal aid to help the families pay for representation was finally granted last week after the Government initially refused the funding request.