Jury sees footage of fatal jet crash at air display which killed 11 people

The crash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22 2015 where Pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men.
The crash during the Shoreham Airshow on August 22 2015 where Pilot Andrew Hill was performing a stunt in a 1950s Hawker Hunter before it plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball killing 11 men.

The crash of a vintage jet fighter in a failed stunt at an airshow which claimed 11 lives was filmed by a miniature camera in the cockpit, a court has heard.

Andrew Hill was performing an aerobatic manoeuvre in a 1950s Hawker Hunter when it plummeted onto the A27 in West Sussex and exploded into a fireball in August 2015.

Yesterday, the jury at his trial watched footage recorded in the moments before the disaster, which he is accused of causing.

It showed the road coming into view, and then the sky as he began the fatal loop manoeuvre.

Wearing a helmet, he can be seen moving during the flight. Nothing can be heard other than the sound of the engine before the aircraft beings to judder, flying low along the road and crashing.

Hill, a 54-year-old RAF instructor and British Airways commercial captain, is standing trial at the Old Bailey after denying 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Relatives of the victims – some of whom had been spectators at the Shoreham Airshow and others using the nearby road – sat quietly in the public gallery as the footage, which has not previously been seen publicly, was played.

Taken by a GoPro camera, positioned behind the pilot’s seat, it showed Hill performing a flypast parallel to the runway at Shoreham Airport, inverting the aircraft and then performing a stunt called a Derry roll.

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, had earlier told the court the crash was “purely” the result of “pilot error” because the aircraft being was flown too low and too slow.

Although normally a careful and competent pilot, the court heard of some past incidents in which Hill had played “fast and loose” with the rules and appeared to have a “cavalier attitude” towards safety.

After showing the footage, Mr Kark told jurors there was a “catalogue of errors” on Hill’s part, including failing to take evasive action to carry out an escape manoeuvre.

Jurors were also shown footage shot by spectators at the side of the road, showing the plane in the sky performing the stunt and crashing into the main road, engulfing victims who were in cars and standing nearby.

Hill, of Buntingford, Hertfordshire, watched the beginning of the footage but lowered his head in the dock when the moment of impact was shown before looking at the jury.

Immediately after the crash he told emergency services he did not remember or know what happened but felt “terrible” and had been feeling unwell, the court heard.

Mr Kark said: “The aircraft crashed as a result of Mr Hill’s negligence and as such this breach of duty caused the deaths of 11 men.

“Having regard to the serious and obvious risk of death, the negligence of Mr Hill was truly exceptionally bad such as to amount to the criminal offence of gross negligence manslaughter.”

He added: “If a pilot continued to fly an aerobatic display above a crowd of spectators, knowing that he was unwell, then that, we would suggest, would be capable of amounting to a gross breach of his duty of care.”

Hill was also originally charged with recklessly or negligently endangering an aircraft under air navigation laws but this was dropped before the trial began.

The hearing, expected to last eight weeks, continues.