The pilot of the vintage Hawker Hunter jet that crashed onto the A27, near Shoreham, in 2015 will be charged with manslaughter, prosecutors announced last night. The charge of causing manslaughter by gross negligence, and a lesser charge of endangering an aircraft come three years after the tragic accident took place. In a statement Simon Ringrose from the CPS Special Crime Division said that he had found there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution and furthermore, that the prosecution was in the public interests.
Andy Hill, from Sandon, Hertfordshire, was performing acrobatics at a Shoreham air display when his 1950’s jet struck several cars on the main road and bystanders of the event itself. Hill was seriously injured in the crash but survived. Police met with families of the eleven victims last night at their HQ in Lewes to confirm that the pilot is now facing criminal charges. Mr Hill who is turns 54 on Thursday is due to appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 19 April.
An earlier investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that Hill failed to gain enough height to complete the ‘bent loop’ that caused the crash. They further found that it would have been possible for him to abandon the manoeuvre but that Hill either deemed it unnecessary or did not know how to pull out. After the initial event he was described as an “an unbelievably experienced chap” and who was “very thorough and professional” in his preparation. He held a European Union Airline Transport Pilot’s license and was authorised by the Civil Aviation Authority to fly the Hawker Hunter in displays. The AAIB found that pilot error caused the crash.
In the immediate aftermath of the Shoreham crash, the Civil Aviation Authority grounded all Hawker Hunter aircraft and restricted other vintage jets flying over land to perform fly-pasts only. The distance between display lines and crowds was also increased and the crash prompted change in UK aviation law. The ruling and case was delayed and complicated when a court ruled the police could not have direct access to the AAIB report but with the new ruling we should see Hill in court by the Autumn.