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Jury shown footage capturing moments before Shoreham Airshow crash

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Footage capturing the moments before 11 people were killed in the Shoreham Airshow crash has been shown to a jury.

A stunt was being performed by pilot Andrew Hill in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plunged onto the A27 in West Sussex, exploding into a fireball at 1.22pm on 22 August 2015.

The 54-year-old is standing trial at the Old Bailey and denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Jurors watched footage from the cockpit of the plane as relatives of the victims sat quietly in the packed public gallery.

The court heard that footage from the GoPro camera, positioned behind the pilot’s seat, showed Hill performing a flypast parallel to Shoreham Airport’s runway, inverting the aircraft and showing the land below, and then performing a stunt called a Derry roll.

In the footage, the A27 comes into view and the camera then shows the sky as Hill begins the fatal loop manoeuvre.

Hill, wearing a helmet, is seen moving during the flight and nothing can be heard apart from the sound of the engine.

The aircraft then begins to judder and flies low along the road before it crashes.

Andrew Hill is facing 11 counts of gross negligence at the Old Bailey
Image:
Andrew Hill is facing 11 counts of gross negligence at the Old Bailey

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, had previously told the court that the crash was “purely” because of “pilot error” after the aircraft was flown too low and too slow.

The court heard that although Hill was normally a careful and competent pilot, there had been some previous incidents where he had played “fast and loose” with the rules and appeared to have a “cavalier attitude” towards safety.

Mr Kark told jurors that Hill, of Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, had made a “catalogue of errors” – including:

:: The aircraft entered the loop manoeuvre too slow and did not have enough “energy” to reach the top

:: Hill failed to apply full thrust on the approach to the loop as he should have done

:: The aircraft did not reach sufficient height at the peak of the loop – called the apex

:: Hill made a “conscious decision” to add flap and begin a descent despite not reaching the height needed

:: The plane had insufficient speed at the apex

:: Hill “failed to execute an escape manoeuvre in the time available” but tried to pull through the loop – described by one expert as a “cardinal sin”.

The court heard that immediately after the crash, Hill told emergency services he did not remember or know what happened but felt “terrible” and had been feeling unwell.

Mr Kark told the court: “The aircraft crashed as a result of Mr Hill’s negligence and as such this breach of duty caused the deaths of 11 men.

“Having regard to the serious and obvious risk of death, the negligence of Mr Hill was truly exceptionally bad such as to amount to the criminal offence of gross negligence manslaughter.

“If a pilot continued to fly an aerobatic display above a crowd of spectators, knowing that he was unwell, then that, we would suggest, would be capable of amounting to a gross breach of his duty of care.”

Defending, Karim Khalil, told the court criticisms made of Hill – a former Royal Air Force instructor and British Airways commercial captain – were “either wrong or misplaced”.

He said Hill had no memory of the crash and “may have been suffering cognitive impairment”.

He added: “He was subjected to the increasing forces of gravity.”

Hill was left with serious, life-threatening injuries and his life was saved by being thrown from the plane before medics placed Hill in a medically induced coma.

He said it would be a “remarkable pilot indeed” who had never made an error.

Hill had responded to making any mistake in a “respectful” manner and was keen to ensure it did not happen again, said Mr Khalil.

Mr Hill was flying a vintage Hawker Hunter before he crashed
Image:
Hill was flying a vintage Hawker Hunter before he crashed

Mr Khalil said: “Pilot error does not explain what happened here at all,” adding: “He is not a cavalier pilot and not a pilot who, as is suggested, plays fast and loose [with the rules]. Quite the contrary. He did not deliberately fail to take evasive action.”

The victims are Maurice Abrahams, 76; Dylan Archer, 42; Tony Brightwell, 53; Matthew Grimstone, 23; Matt Jones, 24; Graham Mallinson, 72; Daniele Polito, 23; Mark Reeves, 53; Jacob Schilt, 23; Richard Smith, 26; and Mark Trussler, 54, who all lived in Sussex.

Originally Hill was charged with one count of recklessly or negligently endangering an aircraft under air navigation laws but this was dropped before the trial began, the CPS said.

The trial continues.

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