Five years after the deaths of 11 men in the Shoreham Airshow tragedy, the families of those killed are still searching for answers – and will have to wait longer after the formal inquest was delayed again because of Covid-19.
Their deaths are “being treated as secondary” because of legal restrictions on evidence at their inquest, the family of one of the victims have said.
A Hawker Hunter plane exploded into a fireball on the A27 in West Sussex on August 22, 2015 as pilot Andrew Hill attempted a loop as part of the nearby airshow.
He was thrown clear of the burning wreckage and survived the disaster.
Matthew Grimstone was 23 when he and his friend and footballing team-mate Jacob Schilt were killed in the disaster.
They were travelling to Worthing on the A27 when his car was hit by the jet aircraft.
Mr Grimstone’s parents Phil and Sue said: “It feels as if the last five years has passed us by. We miss Matt dearly.
“Our focus has been and will remain on getting answers as to why and how this tragedy was allowed to happen.
“We are angry and we have every right to be so, we try not to go there, but it is there.”
They spoke of their frustration that many pieces of evidence held by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are deemed “legally protected” and might not be disclosed during the inquest.
They continued: “We feel Penelope Schofield, the senior coroner, and the families should have access to this evidence for the inquest.
“We appreciate that the laws relevant to this type of inquest are complicated, but it appears to us that the death of our son, all 11 men, is being treated as secondary and a significant amount of important evidence may not be allowed to be used to assist the inquest.
“The coroner has promised that this delayed inquest will be ‘full and fearless’, and most certainly needs to be.”
Local Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “The tragedy is still very fresh in the minds of the local community who rallied round so impressively at the time, showing their empathy and solidarity for the families involved and doing so much to support them.
“It will sadly forever be part of Shoreham’s history, but where the response of the community and the emergency services was the one positive to come out of it.”
Speaking of the impact the delays to the inquest have had on the families, he added: “We all share their sense of frustration at the continuing delays for a multitude of reasons which means that it remains difficult to achieve closure until that inquest has done its work and lessons really learned.”
The 11 men who died were wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams, 76, from Brighton; retired engineer James Mallinson, 72, from Newick, near Lewes; window cleaner and builder Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; cycling friends Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton, and Richard Smith, 26, from Hove; NHS manager Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; grandfather Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Worthing United footballers Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23; personal trainer Matt Jones, 24; and Daniele Polito, 23, from Worthing.