Shoreham Airshow crash is a constant reminder of how precious life is

Floral tributes left on the Old Toll Bridge in Shoreham, after the Shoreham air crash  (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)
Floral tributes left on the Old Toll Bridge in Shoreham, after the Shoreham air crash (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Some moments, some happenings stay with you forever and there is always something there to remind you of a certain moment when you least expect it.

So it was with last week’s news on the culmination and verdict of the trial of Andy Hill, the pilot of the Hawker Hunter which crashed onto the A27 in 2015 destroying the hopes and dreams of so many people.

My column that week was one of extreme darkness and the thoughts and feelings of that day serve me as a constant reminder of how precious all life is.

Forgive me for reliving that moment with you through this week’s column which is as it was written at the time...

| Also in the news - An ‘under-used’ Littlehampton bus service will end soon, West Sussex County Council has confirmed; eight men found in the back of a lorry have been detained by Sussex Police for allegedly entering the UK illegally; and Rustington cheerleaders are off to Disneyland Paris for an international competition featuring squads from all over Europe |

‘SATURDAY August 22, 5.50pm. I am writing this week’s column within minutes of returning home from the Shoreham Airshow where along with thousands of other spectators I have been in stunned lockdown on the airfield for over two hours.

I was on the fairly empty north end of the field heading for the Amsterdam pub to join close friends for lunch when the Hawker Hunter fighter jet began its regular routine while a sixties tune, the name of which I cannot recall, played through the public address system.

I stopped to watch, thrilled at the sight of this iconic airplane that was so frequently in the skies above the Littlehampton of my youth. I laughed and muttered to myself ‘what a lovely sight’. It shone in the sunlight, climbed, looped and dived back down.

It vanished from my view and I quite expected to see it rise above the tents and the trees in seconds, but it did not. Two explosions and dark flame-laced palls of black smoke boiled above where it should have appeared.

I was stunned, and in that moment which will always be with me, I shouted the words out aloud ‘Oh no,’ and burst into tears. Distressed I turned to an RAF officer standing nearby and said quite simply, ‘I want to go home.’ He nodded.

I made for the nearest exit but it was already closed. No one was allowed to leave the field I supposed because emergency vehicles needed instant and unhindered access.

Thoughtfully, young air cadets brought seating and water for the stranded spectators and people huddled together not really believing what they had seen. There were a few moans but by and large just a stunned acceptance and a respectful quiet.

Later I slowly walked the long walk to the south of the airfield where the gates had been opened and as I walked, I saw the dark unmistakeable shape of the Vulcan approach the field and as it growled overhead, I believed I saw the starboard wing dip a little as it passed the crash site, perhaps an acknowledgement of the terrible devastation below. It was a long miserable walk to Shoreham Town.’

At the time of writing, we spectators were quite unaware of the carnage on the A27.

So sad for all concerned, not only for the dead and injured but also for those who will have been forever touched and traumatised by this disaster.

My thoughts are still with them...

• If you would like to get in touch with Whispering Smith, please email: whisperingsmith1@gmail.com

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