UK airshow plane crash: 7 killed, pilot fighting for life

Emergency services and crash investigation officers working yesterday at the site where a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed onto the A27 road at Shoreham-by-Sea, a small seaside town and port in West Sussex, England. The aircraft ploughed into severa
Emergency services and crash investigation officers working yesterday at the site where a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed onto the A27 road at Shoreham-by-Sea, a small seaside town and port in West Sussex, England. The aircraft ploughed into several cars on the busy road near an airshow in southern England on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHOREHAM-BY-SEA (England) • A pilot was in a critical condition in hospital yesterday following a crash at a British airshow that killed seven people when his plane plunged into a busy road.

The historic Hawker Hunter military jet failed to pull up out of a loop at the Shoreham Airshow on the south-east English coast on Saturday, and hit several cars, creating a fireball that sent thick, black smoke billowing into the sky.

The pilot was airlifted to hospital where he is in a critical condition, Sussex Police said, though they were unable to say whether he had ejected from the plane.

"As far as we are aware, all those who sadly lost their lives were on the road," said the county force's Superintendent Jane Derrick. "We are continuing to search... the area to ensure that we have identified all the casualties. It is possible that... we are going to find more bodies at the scene."

Fourteen people suffered minor injuries, four of whom were taken to hospital.

Footage of the crash showed the jet attempting to perform a loop manoeuvre high in the air. The plane banked up steeply, turned over but did not complete the loop in time to avoid hitting the ground.

The plane hit the A27, a major road that runs along England's south-east coast. Pictures from the scene showed police had cordoned off the four-lane dual carriageway road, with ambulances, fire crews and emergency service helicopters in attendance. Debris was visible across the road.

Eyewitness Gairo Gomez, who works nearby, said the whole building he was in shook. "I saw the plane going down. I heard a huge bang and the glass was shaking and the doors were banging, the whole building was shaking," he said.

A mainstay of Britain's Royal Air Force in the 1950s and early 1960s, the single-seater Hawker Hunter planes were used in campaigns such as the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency.

Mr Tim Loughton, the area's representative in Parliament, drove past the airshow entrance a few minutes before the crash and said cars were queueing to get in. He said, given the numbers attending the airshow, "thank God that the aircraft did not hit a larger crowd".

Prime Minister David Cameron sent his condolences to the families of those who died.

The crash was the second at the airshow in recent years.

In 2007, Mr Brian Brown, a stuntman who had performed aerial stunts in movies, including the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, was killed while flying a World War II fighter plane.

The second day of the airshow yesterday was cancelled.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'UK airshow plane crash: 7 killed, pilot fighting for life'. Print Edition | Subscribe