Shoreham Airshow crash inquests postponed to allow families to attend

The inquests into the deaths of 11 men in the Shoreham Airshow crash have been postponed to enable the families to attend in person.

West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield said the hearings into the 2015 tragedy, which were due to be held in September, would now be put back until June or September 2021.

She said that it would not be appropriate to hold the case with the Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.

Ms Schofield said: “I have expressed my extreme regret to all the families that there is to be a further delay to proceedings, but I will not be able to hear these inquests, as planned, later this year.

“With 11 bereaved families and several other interested parties, lawyers, press and public, it seems likely that well over 150 people would wish to attend court, and I anticipate the threat of Covid-19, the potential for its transmission and the consequent disruption of in-person proceedings, will not have receded by the autumn.

Shoreham Airshow crash
Shoreham air crash victims (top row left to right) Graham Mallinson, Mark Trussler and Maurice Abrahams, (middle row left to right) Matthew Grimstone, Dylan Archer and Richard Smith, (bottom row left to right) Tony Brightwell, Matt Jones and Mark Reeves (PA)

“My present view is that these inquests are not ones that are appropriate to be held remotely, given the importance to the families of being fully involved in the hearings, the benefits of hearing the first-hand evidence in person and the overall public interest.”

Pilot Andrew Hill survived after the Hawker Hunter jet he was flying exploded into a fireball on a busy dual carriageway at the Shoreham Airshow in West Sussex on August 22, 2015.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report published in 2017 found the crash could have been avoided and was caused by pilot error when Mr Hill flew too low and too slowly while carrying out a manoeuvre.

In March 2019 he was cleared of 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence after a lengthy trial at the Old Bailey.

Ms Schofield said a pre-inquest review was still planned to be held remotely on June 24.

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