Key evidence ‘missing’ in Shoreham air crash investigation

DM157402a.jpg Floral tributes on footbridge near Shoreham Airport following the plane crash. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150824-194945008

DM157402a.jpg Floral tributes on footbridge near Shoreham Airport following the plane crash. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150824-194945008

A High Court hearing is needed to obtain ‘missing’ evidence into the Shoreham air crash, Sussex Police has revealed.

An inquest into the death of eleven people who died when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed during a display at the Shoreham Airshow on August 22, 2015, may not be held until March 2017 at the earliest.

DM157072a.jpg Floral tributes on footbridge near Shoreham Airport following the plane crash. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150824-144550008

DM157072a.jpg Floral tributes on footbridge near Shoreham Airport following the plane crash. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150824-144550008

Penelope Schofield, senior coroner for West Sussex, received an update on the current investigations by Sussex Police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) at a pre inquest review held in Horsham today (March 22).

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Rymarz, of Sussex Police said: “There has been a significant delay in obtaining some material in this case because of the legislsation that governs the investigation of such incidents.”

Regulations prevent the AAIB from sharing ‘protected material’, which can include cockpit recorders and footage, witness acounts, expert reports and some documentation.

DCI Rymarz added: “Material that is believed to be held by AAIB is being applied for via a High Court application that is currently awaiting a hearing. These applications are rare and it has taken some time to progress this line of enquiry.”

He said the police investigation cannot progress effectively without this material as ‘key evidence is missing’.

Once the information held by the AAIB is obtained, Police and the CPS will be able to determine whether any criminal offences may have been committed, by whom and whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute.

Penelope Schofield read the names of the eleven who died in the air crash last summer.

They were Maurice Rex Abrahams, 76 of Brighton, Dylan Archer, 42 of Brighton, Anthony David Brightwell, 53 of Hove, Matthew Grimstone, 23 of Brighton, Matthew Wesley Jones, 24 of Littlehampton, James Graham Mallinson, 72 of Newick, Daniele Gaetano Polito, 23 of Goring by Sea, Mark Alexander Reeves, 53 of Seaford, Jacob Henry Schilt, 23 of Brighton, Richard Jonathan Smith, 26 of Hove and Mark James Trussler, 54 of Worthing.

Andy Hill, the pilot who was flying the Hawker Hunter was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

The final AAIB report is expected to be published in summer.

The coroner set the date for a second pre-inquest review to take place on September 19 at Parkside in Horsham and indicated that the full inquests are likely to take place in March 2017.

Ms Schofield reiterated her intention to hold a ‘full and fearless’ investigation into the deaths of the eleven men.

She said the inquest will address the incidents that led up to the Hawker Hunter jet aircraft ‘tragically’ crashing at the air show, the organisation of the airshow and aerobatic displays, the actions of the pilot both before and during the event and the safety of the aircraft.

Since the start of the investigation, Police have obtained approximately 330 statements, nearly 3,500 documents and have obtained images and video from more than 200 members of the public.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and a partner in the Irwin Mitchell aviation team, is an advocate for several families at the pre-inquest review hearing and the inquest.

He said: “This is likely to be a lengthy and complicated inquest and crucially it gives families the opportunity to put questions, themselves or through their legal representatives, to key witnesses involved in the tragedy and the investigation.

“We hope the inquest process will pull all relevant evidence together and provide a complete and detailed picture of the full chain of events that led to this this terrible disaster.

“We have heard from the AAIB’s recent Special Bulletin how the safety of air shows can be improved. The recommendations are welcomed but it is a matter of deep regret that it has taken the terrible loss of life at Shoreham before these recommendations, many of which are common sense, have been made.

“The families want to understand the entirety of the safety precautions undertaken prior to the doomed flight of the Hawker Hunter aircraft at Shoreham on 22nd August, 2015. They also want to know exactly what improvements will be implemented by the authorities, so that they and the general public can be confident in the safety of future air shows.

“From the three Special Bulletin that have been published so far there are clear learning points from what happened at Shoreham which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) must take into account. It is crucial that the safety recommendations are implemented into its policies and guidance as soon as possible.”

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