Shoreham Airshow crash witness makes documentary on overcoming trauma

Filmmaker Ben Bowie in his campervan with his dog, Monte
Filmmaker Ben Bowie in his campervan with his dog, Monte

An award-winning documentary maker was left traumatised when, on August 22, 2015, a jet crashed on the A27 in Shoreham in front of his family’s campervan.

Now, Ben Bowie is making a documentary about coming to terms with being caught up in the airshow disaster which killed 11 men.

The 50-year-old, who has made many documentaries about disasters over his 25–year career – from 7/7 to the Titanic – hopes the film will encourage others who may also be suffering to seek help, like he did.

Ben said: “The truth is, I didn’t cope.

“It was the only time in my life I wasn’t in charge of my own mind.”

On that sunny day, Ben, his wife Carolyn, their daughters Amelie, 13, Kate, 14, and their dog, Monte, piled into their campervan.

Surf board strapped to the roof, they set off from their home in Houndean Rise, Lewes, for a day at the beach in Climping.

They were travelling along at 40mph when they saw a jet fly past, seconds before they heard ‘an earsplitting noise, like you wouldn’t believe’.

The jet had crashed into the car in front of them, bursting into flames.

“We started screaming,” Ben said.

“I thought, did that really just happen? It was like something out of a movie.”

Ben spent the next few days at home, before returning to work. He said ‘it got easier for a few weeks’ but after around six months ‘it started to come back’.

“I would replay it over and over again,” he said.

“I felt fearful, I had strong flashbacks.

“That’s when I decided to make a film – to explore what was going on.”

It was only after speaking to the UK’s leading expert on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that he ‘started to feel better’.

“He really turned me around,” Ben said. “Unless you have spoken to someone, you think it’s just in your head.”

Discovering that he was displaying symptoms of PTSD ‘gave me control of it’, he said.

His documentary, a work in progress being made through his three-year-old film company, Bigger Bang, will be the first time Ben has been in front of the camera himself.

He hopes to speak to other people who also witnessed the crash that day, to see how they are coping.

He fears there may be people who are suffering in silence and hopes sharing his own experience will help others realise that they, too, can overcome the trauma.

“There is help out there,” he said.

“That seems to me to be worth saying.”

Anyone willing to contribute to the film, email shorehamdocumentary@gmail.com or call 020 7147 7421

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