Eyewitness speaks of emotional moment plane crashed

Air ambulance at the scene of tragic air show crash   Picture: Eddie Mitchell
Air ambulance at the scene of tragic air show crash Picture: Eddie Mitchell

An aircraft enthusiast was on the verge of tears when he saw the ill-fated Hawker Hunter plane plummet onto the A27 on Saturday.

The incident, which has left the community in a state of mourning, is responsible for as many as 20 deaths.

Ian Rudge, 60, of Oak Close, Worthing, was watching the air display with his wife Susan from the East bank of the River Adur when the plane crashed.

Mr Rudge said: “My wife burst into tears along with other ladies around. I was close to tears myself and couldn’t believe what I had seen. For a good few minutes there was silence. People couldn’t really comprehend what they had seen. We had no physical effects, just pure shock.

“We are just lucky to be here and feel very sorry for the people who have been affected one way or another and those who lost their lives or were injured.

“I didn’t dream at the time from where we were standing that it actually landed on the A27. Sadly with thousands of people around the airfield it was inevitable when it hit the ground in that area there were going to be casualties.

“My wife was in a state of anxiety to put it mildly. We left as there was nothing we could do from where we were. We made our way home with friends to have a cup of tea and to recover.”

Up until the time of the incident, Mr Rudge described the display as ‘fairly typical’.

He said the aircraft had been displaying for a few minutes before the crash and he remembered commenting to his wife about the ‘immaculate’ presentation of the plane.

Talking through the plane’s last moments, Mr Rudge said its last manoeuvre saw it flying in a north-easterly direction, before making a climbing turn to the right above the river and the A27 cloverleaf junction with the A283. This was followed by a dive out of the turn on a ‘reciprocal course’ heading back toward the runway. The plane passed over the A27 and as it appeared to be levelling out Mr Rudge said the tail dropped and disappeared behind the Ricardo building.

He added: “In the last few moments it appeared that the engine was not responding as I would have thought power would have been applied, with associated noise, for an assumed low pass down the runway. The angle of the dive before it disappeared behind the building was fairly shallow but as it came over the A27 the height was not that low for a pass but that was when it appeared, from my point of view, to simply fall out of the sky with the tail low to pancake down behind the aforementioned buildings.”

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