Shoreham Airshow tragedy inquest will not reinvestigate deaths, says coroner

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Eleven people died in the tragedy in August 2015 (PA) (PA Media)
Eleven people died in the tragedy in August 2015 (PA) (PA Media)

The inquest into the deaths of 11 people in the Shoreham Airshow tragedy will not reinvestigate the fatalities, a coroner has said.

Eleven men died after a plane taking part in an aerial display crashed on to the nearby A27 in Sussex on August 22, 2015. Thirteen other people were injured.

The pilot of the Hawker Hunter plane, Andrew Hill, was charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019. He maintains he has no recollection of the crash.

The inquest into the 11 deaths was originally opened on September 2, 2015 but was adjourned in 2018 due to the criminal trial of Mr Hill.

The inquests resumed in March 2019 following the conclusion of the criminal trial, but hearings which were set for September 2020 were adjourned due to the pandemic.

A pre-inquest review into the deaths was heard on Thursday at County Hall North in Horsham, Sussex.

Eleven people died in the tragedy (handouts/PA) (PA Media)
Eleven people died in the tragedy (handouts/PA) (PA Media)

The 11 victims were Anthony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; Daniele Polito, 23, from Goring-by-Sea; Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton; Jacob Schilt, 23, from Brighton; James Mallinson, 72, from Newick; Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; Matthew Grimstone, 23, from Brighton; Matthew Jones, 24, from Littlehampton; Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton; and Richard Jonathan Smith, 26, from Hove.

Earlier this year the High Court refused West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield’s application to include some of the evidence from the criminal trial of Mr Hill, including a cockpit video of the crash, within the inquest.

The High Court also ruled Ms Schofield should rely on evidence provided by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) rather than reinvestigating the crash.

Ms Schofield said: “The factual witness evidence investigated during the forthcoming inquest should only cover matters that fall outside of the AAIB investigation.

“As the High Court stated, there is no public interest in reinvestigation. Rather the coroner should rely on the submissions of the body with the greatest expertise in that particular area.

“The remit of my investigation is now defined as the cause of death of each of the deceased, and the planning, organisation, and preparation for the Shoreham Airshow and the aerobatic display in respect of consideration given and any steps taken regarding safeguarding members of the public outside the airshow, including bystanders and users of the A27.”

Ms Schofield also said Mr Hill would not be called as a witness as he had already submitted evidence to the investigation.

Andrew Hill speaking outside the Old Bailey after being cleared of manslaughter (PA) (PA Archive)
Andrew Hill speaking outside the Old Bailey after being cleared of manslaughter (PA) (PA Archive)

Kirsten Heaven, a solicitor representing a number of the victims’ families, claimed Sussex Police is attempting to “wriggle away” from giving evidence about a safety briefing held in the days before the airshow, having only put forward two witnesses.

She said: “The families feel like Sussex Police is seeking to wriggle away from a bit of scrutiny over what police involvement was at the time.

“Obviously these witnesses have relevant evidence to give, they were in the room, and we’re not asking for all of them but they all played a different role.

“It does appear to the families that Sussex Police are seeking to wriggle away by offering up someone who isn’t going to be able to answer the questions that the families have.”

In response, the legal representative for Sussex Police said: “We’re not trying to wriggle out of this, those involved were traumatised and for many of them it will be difficult to come to court – that needs to be kept in mind.

“It’s not unreasonable to say they feel a great sense of reluctance to appear in court but if they are needed they will come.”

The full inquest is set to take place from November 7 to 18, and from December 5 to 16.