Shoreham air crash pilot told paramedic at the scene he blacked out at the controls, court hears

Paramedic found Andrew Hill 'at immediate risk of death', but able to say 'he had blacked out in the air', Old Bailey trial told

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 29 January 2019 18:28
Footage shows devastating moment of Shoreham air crash

The air show pilot whose jet crashed in a fireball on a dual carriageway told a paramedic that he had blacked out at the controls of his aeroplane, a court heard.

Mark Durham, who treated Andrew Hill in the immediate aftermath of the Shoreham air disaster of 2015, recalled that the pilot told him that “he had at some point blacked out in the air”, the Old Bailey was told.

Eleven people died when the vintage Hawker Hunter jet crashed onto the A27 in August 2015 but, the court has been told, Hill had a near-miraculous escape and survived, despite being very seriously injured.

The former RAF fighter jet pilot is now on trial accused of 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The prosecution alleges that Hill, 54, of Sandon in Hertfordshire, made a conscious decision to commit to a loop when he was far too low, and that this was a “cardinal sin” for any pilot.

Hill, however, denies the charges.

Pilot Andrew Hill is on trial at the Old Bailey, accused of manslaughter by gross negligence

The jury has heard Hill’s defence is that he had not been in full control of his actions, possibly because the G-force experienced while manoeuvring the fast jet had caused him cognitive impairment.

In a statement read to the Old Bailey, Mr Durham, a critical care paramedic based at Brighton, said he had arrived to find Hill so badly injured that “he was in my opinion at immediate risk of death”.

But, Mr Durham said, Hill was still conscious and able to talk.

In his statement Mr Durham said: “He said he had pain in his chest, but at some point, he had blacked out in the air.”

Graphic shown to jury details Shoreham air crash which killed 11 people in 2015

Dr Karen Eastman, an off-duty GP who had been watching the air show with her children, rushed to help the pilot and was “really shocked he was found alive”, the court heard.

Tom Kark QC, prosecuting, read the jurors a transcript of a recording of first responders talking to Hill as they worked to save his life. In the recording, a voice believed to be Dr Eastman’s asks Hill “Did you feel unwell before you crashed?”

Hill replied “yes”, the jury heard.

Those who died in the Shoreham air show crash included: (top row, L to R) Graham Mallinson, Mark Trussler and Maurice Abrahams, (middle row, L to R) Matthew Grimstone, Dylan Archer and Richard Smith, (bottom row, L to R) Tony Brightwell, Matt Jones and Mark Reeves.

At other points in the recording, the court heard, Hill answered “No” when asked “Do you remember what happened?”

The jury has been told he now has no memory of the crash.

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The prosecution has told the court there had been previous occasions when Hill had “played fast and loose” with safety rules, including when his display had to be stopped at the 2014 Southport air show after he flew dangerously close to the crowd.

On Tuesday, however, a Ryanair pilot who received training from Hill in how to fly the 1950s-era Hawker Hunter, denied he had shown a tendency to take risks.

About a year before the crash, Ben Watts had recorded a cockpit video when he flew with Hill as he practised his aerobatics display ahead of the 2014 Shoreham Air Show.

After the jury was shown the footage from the 2014 practice flight above Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire, Mr Watts, who is a pilot captain for budget airline Ryanair, was asked whether he had gained the impression that Hill had “a cavalier attitude.”

Mr Watts replied: “No. I would say, from my experience, the opposite.”

The trial continues.