Shoreham Airshow crash pilot cleared of manslaughter after 11 died following jet explosion

Andrew Hill‘s Hawker Hunter jet crashed on to the A27 in Sussex, south England, on August 22 2015. 11 people died and many survivors suffered terrible burns when they were caught in the blast sparked after the aircraft hit the ground. The pilot, who had previously served in the RAF, denied 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. 

Shoreham airshow crash pilot Andrew Hill was cleared of manslaughter (Image: PA)

I am enormously impressed and grateful for the dignified way you have all behaved

Mr Justice Edis to the victims‘ families

And he said he didn‘t deliberately attempted a loop manoeuvre, despite he was flying too low and slow moments before the impact. 

Mr Hill was also found not guilty of a count, not put in front of jurors, of negligency. 

Karim Khalil QC, defending, argued Mr Hill had been suffering from “cognitive impairment” when the jet crashed.  

The verdict was met by tears and gasps from the 17 families who lost loved ones in the crash. 

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Mr Justice Edis told the relatives: “I am enormously impressed and grateful for the dignified way you have all behaved.

“I can see that you are upset and you are absolutely entitled to be but despite being upset you have behaved in a way which does you great credit.” 

Leslye Polito, the mother of the youngest crash victim, 23-year-old Daniele Polito, said she felt “disappointed, very upset and primarily let down by the justice system”.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey in London, she said: “The whole fact that it was avoidable, that was the hardest bit to consider and process. It‘s still the hardest bit.” 

Some of the families and people affected by the crash released a joint statement, saying the end of the criminal trial is just the next step in their search for answers. 

In a statement from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which represents 17 families and individuals who suffered injuries or losses three years ago, they announced the launch of a judicial inquiry. 

Rebecca Smith, one of the expert aviation lawyers at Irwin Mitchell representing those affected said: “Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded attention will now turn to the Inquest where the entirety of the Shoreham Airshow tragedy can be fully examined.

“While the criminal trial purely looked into the actions of the pilot involved, the Inquest will be able to investigate the wider organisation and planning of the event including the safety precautions taken, the aircraft involved, location of spectators and the management of the pilots. 

 

“While there have been some recommendations from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) following their early reports, it is only once the whole event has been examined at the Inquest that lessons can be fully learned to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

“Hopefully then the families and those affected will finally have all the answers they need to be able to begin to move on from this tragedy.”

A new date for the Inquest has yet to be confirmed by the Coroner.  

The pilot released a brief statement following the verdict. 

After naming the 11 victims, he said: “I’m truly sorry for the part I’ve played in their deaths, it is they that i will remember for the rest of my life.” 

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