Families of Shoreham Airshow tragedy victims still waiting for answers

‘We’re being treated as secondary’: Families of 11 victims of the Shoreham Airshow tragedy are still waiting for answers FIVE years on as battle continues over ‘legally-protected’ evidence

  • Frustrated family say the 11 men who were killed are being treated as ‘secondary’
  • Coroner has promised the inquest into victims’ deaths will be ‘full and fearless’
  • MP says tragic incident in 2015 is still very much in the minds of the community 

The deaths of 11 men in the Shoreham Airshow tragedy are ‘being treated as secondary’ because of legal restrictions on evidence at their inquest, the family of one of the victims have said.

A Hawker Hunter plane exploded into a fireball on the A27 in West Sussex on August 22, 2015 as pilot Andrew Hill attempted a loop as part of the nearby airshow.

He was thrown clear of the burning wreckage and survived the disaster.

Five years on, the families of those killed are still searching for answers – and will have to wait longer after the formal inquest was delayed again because of Covid-19.

Matthew Grimstone was 23 when he and his friend and footballing team-mate Jacob Schilt were killed in the disaster.

The inquest into the deaths of 11 people at the 2015 Shoreham Airshow has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic as families battle to reveal ‘legally protected’ evidence 

The families of the 11 dead have already been told the full inquest into their deaths, which has been repeatedly delayed, will not go ahead until September next year

They were travelling to Worthing on the A27 when his car was hit by the jet aircraft.

Mr Grimstone’s parents Phil and Sue said: ‘It feels as if the last five years has passed us by. We miss Matt dearly.

‘Our focus has been and will remain on getting answers as to why and how this tragedy was allowed to happen.

‘We are angry and we have every right to be so, we try not to go there, but it is there.’

They spoke of their frustration that many pieces of evidence held by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are deemed ‘legally protected’ and might not be disclosed during the inquest.

They continued: ‘We feel Penelope Schofield, the senior coroner, and the families should have access to this evidence for the inquest.

‘We appreciate that the laws relevant to this type of inquest are complicated, but it appears to us that the death of our son, all 11 men, is being treated as secondary and a significant amount of important evidence may not be allowed to be used to assist the inquest.

‘The coroner has promised that this delayed inquest will be ‘full and fearless’, and most certainly needs to be.’

Local Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: ‘The tragedy is still very fresh in the minds of the local community who rallied round so impressively at the time, showing their empathy and solidarity for the families involved and doing so much to support them.

‘It will sadly forever be part of Shoreham’s history, but where the response of the community and the emergency services was the one positive to come out of it.’

Photo issued by Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Office showing the 1950s Hawker Hunter jet moments before the crash which killed 11 people on the A27 in West Sussex

The stretch of  the A27 became a fireball after the plane slammed down minutes into the show

Speaking of the impact the delays to the inquest have had on the families, he added: ‘We all share their sense of frustration at the continuing delays for a multitude of reasons which means that it remains difficult to achieve closure until that inquest has done its work and lessons really learned.’

Barrister Gerard Forlin QC, who represents many of the families at the inquest, said the investigation needs to be ‘full, frank, fearless’. 

Mr Forlin said: ‘They want to find out exactly why their loved ones died and that is why we strenuously made submissions in the June hearing by Zoom, the fifth of such preliminary hearings, as to why the GoPro footage and the dog cam footage and other material is so crucial to the inquest.

‘Of course the inquest and the duty of the learned coroner to conduct this inquest lawfully, fearlessly and impartially is definite.

‘But also one of her statutory duties is to look at what we lawyers call a prevention of future deaths.

‘And that is one of the things that she will have to in law look at to see whether there should be recommendations going forward in relation to airshows generally.

‘Of course this is to do with the UK, but the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions around the world are very carefully looking at this inquest to see how it may impact on airshows in their own countries.’ 

Who were the 11 victims of the 2015 Shoreham air disaster?

Maurice Abrahams

Maurice Abrahams, 76:

Chauffeur Mr Abrahams, from Brighton, was en route in his classic Daimler to collect bride Rebecca Sheen and take her to her wedding when the plane crashed.

A former police officer with Hampshire Constabulary, he was an ex-member of the Grenadier Guards and Parachute Regiment, and had served in Cyprus and Bahrain with the UN.

In his later years, he enjoyed working for East Sussex-based Chariots Chauffeurs as well as gardening.

His funeral was held at St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean, where he had driven brides to their weddings countless times.

Married to Edwina, Mr Abrahams had a son, Eddie, and daughter Lizzie.

Graham Mallinson

James Graham Mallinson, known as Graham, 72:

Retired engineer Mr Mallinson, from Newick, near Lewes, had gone to Shoreham to photograph one of the last Vulcan bomber flights.

Relatives said he was kind and generous with a ‘great sense of humour’. 

He was a private and loving family man, they added.

A lifetime member of the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, married father Mr Mallinson had recently developed an interest in photographing vintage aircraft.

Father-of-six Mark Trussler

Mark Trussler, 54:

Father-of-six Mr Trussler, a window cleaner from Worthing, had taken his motorbike for a spin on the day of the tragedy as he had also wanted to see the Vulcan flight.

While in Shoreham, he texted his fiancee Giovanna Chirico telling her to get the children ready so they could take them out for lunch on his return home.

She told him she loved him and his last words to her were, ‘I love you too, forever’.

A motorbike and rugby fan, he was also described as a doting father.

 Tony Brightwell, 53:

Health care manager Mr Brightwell, from Hove, was indulging his twin passions of planes and cycling when tragedy struck.

His fiancee Lara watched him cycle off to watch one of the last Vulcan bomber flights, ‘but he never came home’, she said.

Mr Brightwell gained his private pilot licence at Shoreham, loved food and cooking, and admired Second World War pilots.

Dylan Archer, 42, and Richard Smith, 26:

IT consultant Mr Archer, a father of two who lived in Brighton, and Mr Smith, who lived in Hove, were due to meet up with a third friend to head out for a cycle ride in the South Downs.

Mr Archer, who grew up in the Midlands, had a lifelong passion for bikes and cars, and rode the bike he made himself on the day he died.

Dylan Archer and Richard Smith were due to meet up with a third friend to go on a cycle ride when they were killed in the Shoreham tragedy 

After going to university in Birmingham, Buckinghamshire-raised Mr Smith worked in a bicycle shop in Cosham, Portsmouth.

He later moved to Hove where he worked in marketing and web development at ActSmart, a firm that specialises in providing advice to the cycle industry.  

Mark Reeves, 53:

Computer-aided design technician Mr Reeves, from Seaford, near Eastbourne, had parked his motorbike to take photographs of planes when the crash happened.

A grandfather, relatives described him as a ‘sun worshipper’ who would often be seen relaxing with a cocktail in hand on holiday.

His family said he was combining two favourite hobbies of riding his cherished Honda bike to take photographs at the air show.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23:

The two Worthing United footballers were travelling together in a car to a 3pm home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash.

Mr Grimstone’s parents Sue and Phil and brothers David and Paul called him the ‘kindest person you could ever meet’.

Team-mates said Mr Schilt was a ‘tenacious midfielder’ with an eye for a goal.

Mr Grimstone had also worked at Brighton & Hove Albion for seven years, most recently as a groundsman at the Lancing training ground.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, were travelling to Worthing United to play in a home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash

Matt Jones, 24, and Daniele Polito, 23:

Father Daniele Polito, from Worthing, was travelling in the same car as personal trainer Matt Jones when tragedy struck.

Mr Polito’s mother Leslye Polito said on the first anniversary of the disaster that the previous 12 months had failed to ease her loss. 

A keen DJ, Mr Jones had reportedly recently returned to the UK from living in Australia.

Matt Jones and Daniele Polito both died in the same car  

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