Chief executive of Adur and Worthing Councils said the Shoreham Airshow disaster has been the ‘worst peacetime tragedy to occur in our communities’.
Speaking at the Joint Strategic Committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Alex Bailey, chief executive of Adur and Worthing Councils, said members from both chambers have been heavily involved with their communities since the incident.
He said: “Initially, our role was to provide support to the emergency services and first responders, in particular to provide any extra capacity to deal with the immediate incident. Around 40 of our staff attended a rest centre at Impulse Leisure, Lancing, ready to deal with the needs of any ‘walking wounded’. In this case, the number of minor injuries was lower than initially estimated and our staff stood down early in the evening of August 22.
“We have been supporting the ongoing on site work undertaken by Sussex Police, the First and Rescue Services, the Environment Agency, Highways England and the county council. Some of that work has been especially difficult and harrowing – tasks made all the more difficult by recent weather conditions and other factors.
Following the incident, the council took part in twice daily strategic coordination group meetings to help the area recover.
He said: “These groups are the community recovery group, business recovery group (which works to help affected businesses get back on their feet) and public health and wellbeing group.”
The council also worked to open books of condolence, develop fundraising opportunities and publicly accessible memorial event websites to help the community express their grief.
Mr Bailey said: “Many people have been affected by this tragedy. Some have already come forward to make use of the help on offer, some are probably yet to do so. The community have come together to create an exceptional range of sensitive events to remember those who lost their lives and the people affected by the incident.
“A formal event is being planned at the moment in Lancing to act as a memorial to those who died and to recognise the significant work for the first responders on that tragic day.
“This is the probably worst peacetime tragedy to occur in our communities. As an initial overall assessment, I think that the system responded to it well, under extremely trying circumstances. Council staff used their intelligence and judgement to do the right thing at the right time for the benefit of the community. In time, a full evaluation will take place with all agencies involved and this will help us to learn lessons for future emergency planning and responses.
Mr Bailey also said some council busniess may have been placed on hold in order to make the incident a priority.
He said: “I feel that you can be proud of the role your staff played. They have been dedicated, displayed huge sensitivity and worked exhaustive hours. For three weeks, this has been all consuming for many of those staff, and I recognise that some ‘business as usual’ work may have slipped. This isn’t by way of an apology, but rather an explanation, which I am sure that you’ll appreciate.”
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