Shoreham Airshow disaster: Inquest date announced as bereaved families thanked for 'incredible patience'

A tribute to the victims in Shoreham
A tribute to the victims in Shoreham

A date for an inquest into the Shoreham Airshow has finally been set after almost five years of legal wrangling and preparation.

At a pre-inquest review this afternoon (January 29) at Crawley Coroner's Court, West Sussex Senior Coroner Penelope Schofield thanked the bereaved families for their 'incredible patience' and gave a window of six weeks from September 14, 2020, for the inquest to take place.

Ms Schofield said there had been 'many reasons' for the delay, but hoped the families would be reassured that by setting a date, proceedings were going to draw to a close.

The inquest will hopefully go some way to providing closure to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives on August 22, 2015, when a Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed onto the A27 in Shoreham.

The Hunter's pilot, Andy Hill, was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2019 after his defence argued he had suffered 'cognitive impairment' while performing a loop-the-loop manoeuvre.

Ms Schofield also announced the inquest would not be held with a jury, after the families failed to reach a consensus over whether they felt one was needed.

She said that last year's criminal trial meant the case had already been in front of a jury, making a second assembly at the inquest unnecessary.

“I do accept that this case raises questions on matters of great public importance,” she said.

“As a coroner I will be able to make very detailed and reasoned factual findings which will be announced publicly. It is my position the public interest would be better served by myself sitting alone."

The step towards a conclusion took a leap forward in August last year when the AAIB decided not to reopen its investigation into the causes of the crash.

Legal representatives of the families were given until February 21 to present any reasons they felt the AAIB's report was flawed. Representing six of the families, Gerard Forlin said the plane's weight should be taken into consideration when assessing the causes of the crash, even as far as accounting for the paint.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed it would be conducting its own investigation into the disaster to assess whether any regulatory changes were required to prevent a similar tragedy. The report was due to be completed within around six months, the CAA said.

Debate over the scope of the inquest continued, with legal counsel again suggesting safety considerations should be made to ensure a similar tragedy would not happen again.

The date for the next, and final, pre-inquest review was set for June 24.

The 11 men who died in the air crash were:

Maurice Rex Abrahams, 76 of Brighton

Dylan Archer, 42 of Brighton

Anthony David Brightwell, 53 of Hove

Matthew Grimstone, 23 of Brighton

Matthew Wesley Jones, 24 of Littlehampton

James Graham Mallinson, 72 of Newick

Daniele Gaetano Polito, 23 of Goring by Sea

Mark Alexander Reeves, 53 of Seaford

Jacob Henry Schilt, 23 of Brighton

Richard Jonathan Smith, 26 of Hove

Mark James Trussler, 54 of Worthing.