Father and son survived Shoreham crash thanks to limo driver's courtesy


A father has told how he and his young son survived the Shoreham air disaster thanks to the kindness of wedding limousine chauffeur Maurice Abrahams.

Mr Abrahams, 76, a former soldier who had served in the Parachute Regiment, died in the blaze that engulfed drivers when the Hawker Hunter jet struck the A27, exploding into a fireball.

At least 11 people are believed to have been killed in the tragedy, which occurred when the pilot of the vintage plane failed to pull out of a loop-the-loop manoeuvre in time.

Michael Sturgess told how Mr Abrahams generously let him on to the busy road - putting them just out of danger when the plane plummeted down behind them.

He told the BBC: "I had come on to the A27, and then he let me in because the traffic was so bad. We went through the traffic lights, the traffic lights went red and that's when he got hit."

Mr Sturgess said his eight year-old son Louis watched in horror as the plane crashed on to the busy road and exploded into flames.

He said: "My little boy saw it all happen... as I went around the bend the plane came down and he saw everything - my eight year-old Louis, my little boy."

Mr Sturgess said he felt "very sad" at what happened, and lucky to be alive.

Speaking to the BBC as he laid flowers at the scene in West Sussex in memory of Mr Abrahams, he said: "Someone was looking down at us really - that's why I've come down to bring some flowers for his family and once all the roads open we are going to put more down for him anyway."

Mr Abrahams was driving a classic Daimler on his way to pick up bride Rebecca Sheen when the plane struck him.

The names of six men believed to have been killed in the tragedy have emerged, but Sussex Police say they believe the death toll is 11.

West Sussex County Council's senior coroner Penny Schofield said the formal identification of the victims has begun.

But the plane crashed with such force that specialists including forensic archaeologists, anthropologists, odontologists and pathologists are having to examine the DNA, teeth and human remains to discover who was killed in the disaster.

Ms Schofield said: "Recovery of all the remains from the scene is almost complete due to the extremely hard work and dedication of police teams and archaeologists, who have been working in extremely difficult conditions."

"We will now begin the formal process of identifying all the victims of this horrific tragedy.

"Recovering all the remains has been a very slow and painstaking operation, but it has been necessary to ensure we establish, without doubt, individual positive identifications."

Ms Schofield has met with the families to explain the process and once identification is complete then she will open inquests into these deaths.

The remains of the plane have been sent to Farnborough, Hampshire, where Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigators will seek to find out what caused the crash. An interim report is due in the next few days.

It is believed the jet's seats were in place when it was found, suggesting that its pilot Andrew Hill may not have ejected before impact.

The jet is understood to have not been carrying a black box flight recorder. Mr Hill is fighting for his life and has been put in a medically induced coma.

The four confirmed victims include Worthing United footballers and best friends Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, who were on their way to play a match when they were killed.

Personal trainer Matt Jones, 24, also died, along with Mr Abrahams.

Motorcyclist Mark Trussler and Daniele Polito, a father from Worthing, are both missing and are feared to have been killed in the tragedy.

Wellwishers continued to pay their respects at a footbridge near the crash site, where hundreds of floral tributes have been left.

Among them was a card from Mr Schilt's girlfriend, Megan Duffy, in which she told him he was the "love of my life".

"I am sure that we would have grown up, got married, had babies and lived in Brighton," she added.

"That will never happen now but I will always love you and you will always be a part of me.

"I will forever cherish all the memories that we shared."

Sussex Police Chief Constable Giles York said some of the victims' families had opted to visit the crash site.

"It has been a devastating four or five days," he said.

"The stage that we're at now is we most likely think we've identified 11 people who have died at the scene.

"We need to give a human face to the families involved in this, and be really honest with them, saying 'we most likely think your loved one well may be in one of those vehicles at the scene'."

Speaking at the footbridge, he said the incident had been "traumatic" for everyone involved.

Describing a colleague who was one of the first on the scene, a "very experienced roads policing officer" who has been doing it for at least 17 years, he said: "In his own words, he's seen some very devastating scenes. But nothing to match what he saw on that day."

Asked what he had seen on his own visits to the crash site, Mr York said: "There is a workman's van at the scene that looks completely untouched.

"It is parked next to what looks like what looks like one of the most burnt cars I think I've ever seen in my life.

"And I think that is sometimes some of the trauma that survivors from this have to live with is: why not me, why was it them?"

He said the site was "very challenging" and part of the complexity is the number of investigating agencies, including the Department for Transport, Air Accidents Investigation Branch, the coroner, and police.