The 11 men who died when a plane crashed at the Shoreham Airshow were unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.
A Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed on to the A27 during an aerial display at the event in West Sussex on August 22 2015.
The conclusion was reached on Tuesday afternoon, more than seven years after the incident, which injured 13 other people including the pilot, Andrew Hill.
Delivering her narrative verdict to a packed courtroom in County Hall North in Horsham, West Sussex Senior Coroner Penelope Schofield said: “Eleven innocent lives were cruelly lost on August 22 2015. Lives that were cut way too short.
“This huge loss will be worn by the families for the rest of their lives.
“It has been a long journey, some seven years for you, to get the answers you wanted.
“It has been a difficult journey getting to this stage. I hope you feel that, through these proceedings, you now have a voice.”
Ms Schofield said that although she recorded a narrative verdict of unlawful killing, that did not “detract from the fact” of Mr Hill’s acquittal in a criminal court.
She did however tell the court it was “clear and obvious” that the pilot should have abandoned the manoeuvre he was undertaking, adding: “This was not a close or difficult judgment call.”
“Even experienced pilots on the ground could see (the plane) was too low,” she said.
“The poor position of the plane in the sky was a further significant error – this plane should not have been lined up with a dual carriageway.”
The coroner finished her conclusions by reading out the names of the 11 men who died in the incident.
A number of members of the victims’ families were present and were in tears as the remarks were delivered.
Mr Hill was charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019. He maintains he has no recollection of the crash.
He was not called as a witness, having submitted evidence to the investigation.
Mr Hill’s request at the pre-inquest review in September for Ms Schofield to rule out a verdict of unlawful killing was denied.
The 11 victims were Anthony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; Daniele Polito, 23, from Goring-by-Sea; Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton; Jacob Schilt, 23, from Brighton; James Mallinson, 72, from Newick; Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; Matthew Grimstone, 23, from Brighton; Matthew Jones, 24, from Littlehampton; Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton; and Richard Smith, 26, from Hove.
Sarah Stewart, partner at law firm Stewarts, who represented a number of families in the disaster, said after the conclusion: “The families we represent would like to thank the senior coroner for her thorough investigation.
“The senior coroner has found that the deaths of the 11 innocent men in the Shoreham Airshow disaster on 22 August 2015 were avoidable.
“The bereaved families have waited more than seven years to reach this point and, although the senior coroner’s conclusion will not ease the pain of their loss, their voices have been heard.”
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