Shoreham Airshow disaster inquest delayed: “We want justice, rather than speed”

SHOREHAM AIRSHOW MEMORIAL - JANE FORDHAM AND DAVID PARFITT SUS-190521-111911001
SHOREHAM AIRSHOW MEMORIAL - JANE FORDHAM AND DAVID PARFITT SUS-190521-111911001

The families of those who lost their lives in the Shoreham Airshow disaster are still seeking answers as the date to begin an inquest remains unconfirmed.

Eleven men lost their lives in 2015 when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed onto the A27 following a failed manoeuvre by pilot Andy Hill.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Pilot Andy Hill arrives at the Old Bailey at the beginning of his trial for manslaughter by gross negligence, following the crash at the Shoreham Air Show in 2015, on January 14, 2019 in London, England. Mr Hill ejected from his Hawker Hunter as it came down on the A27 road in West Sussex in August 2015, killing 11 people. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) SUS-190117-154449001

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Pilot Andy Hill arrives at the Old Bailey at the beginning of his trial for manslaughter by gross negligence, following the crash at the Shoreham Air Show in 2015, on January 14, 2019 in London, England. Mr Hill ejected from his Hawker Hunter as it came down on the A27 road in West Sussex in August 2015, killing 11 people. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) SUS-190117-154449001

Mr Hill was found not guilty of 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence during a trial in March, after claims he blacked out during a ‘bent loop’ trick.

But an inquest into the exact causes of the crash could be delayed as the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) considers reopening its investigation into the disaster.

At a pre-inquest review today (July 15), senior coroner Penelope Schofield said she understood if the families were frustrated.

“The delay in this inquest is causing unnecessary stress for the families and having a clear effect on the community in West Sussex,” she said, adding she was receiving ‘constant’ requests for updates.

“We are approaching the 4th anniversary, so to those who can influence this process, I want you to heed that.”

An initial report from the AAIB during the trial put the cause of the crash down to ‘pilot error’, but did not touch on whether the G-force could have caused him to lose consciousness.

It was an aspect discussed by aviation safety expert Dr Stephen Jarvis, who said the only explanation for Mr Hill’s mistakes was ‘cognitive impairment’.

An inquest would investigate what safety lessons can be learned to prevent mistakes being repeated, as well as identifying the causes of the tragedy,

At the pre-inquest review, Gerard Forlin, speaking on behalf of six of the families, argued it was better to wait until all the information was available before continuing.

“It gives us grave concern that there are planes flying in air shows where this could still be a factor,” he said.

“It could also go on to RAF display teams flying over other air shows or doing flybys. We want thoroughness and we want justice, rather than speed.”

Jim Morris, counsel for the Grimstone family, agreed the effect of G-force had to be investigated to determine if it was a ‘red herring’.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also announced it would be conducting an investigation into what caused the disaster.

Mrs Schofield gave the AAIB a deadline of August 2 to confirm if it would be reopening the investigation and set a tentative date of November 29 for the next preliminary hearing.