Families of eight Shoreham Airshow victims pay tribute at inquest

Families of eight Shoreham Airshow victims pay tribute at inquest

December 2, 2022

‘He would have been the best grandad to my little girl’: Heartbroken families of eight Shoreham Airshow disaster victims pay emotional tribute at inquest into 2015 tragedy

  • Mark Trussler’s daughter Samantha said he would’ve made ‘the best grandad’
  • Richard Smith’s mother Julie said 2015 will ‘forever be the worst year of our lives’
  • Mark Reeves’ sister Denise said: ‘He was my childhood’, describing him as ‘kind’
  • The pilot Andrew Hill was found not guilty on all counts in March 2019
  • A post-mortem found that Matthew Jones and Daniele Polito, would have died immediately from their injuries

The families of eight more victims of the Shoreham Airshow disaster have paid tearful tributes to their lost loved ones.

The inquest continued today, more than seven years on from the disaster in August 2015 when a Hawker Hunter plane crashed into the A27 during an aerial display.

The pilot, Andrew Hill, was charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019.

This morning the inquest continued with tributes to the remaining eight victims, beginning with Mark Trussler, 54 and from Worthing, and 53-year-old Mark Reeves from Seaford.

Families of eight of the Shoreham Airshow disaster victims have paid tribute to them at an inquest today. (Top row from the left) Anthony (Tony) Brightwell, Dylan Archer, Maurice Abrahams and Mark Reeves. (Bottom row from the left) Richard Smith, Matthew Jones, Mark Trussler and Daniele Polito

Both men loved motorcycles and had ridden them to watch the airshow from the side of the A27.

Mark Trussler’s daughter Samantha said: ‘He loved riding his motorbike and a lot of my earliest memories were of us riding through the countryside together.

‘He was a father, son, brother, uncle, partner and friend, and after he was taken he was made a grandad. He would have been the best grandad to my little girl.’

Mark Reeves’ sister Denise said: ‘He was my childhood – he was kind and protective and it never bothered him that I was the little sister tagging along.

‘Mark asked our dad to go with him that day – he declined. To this day he regrets his decision, he always wonders if they would have been standing in a different spot that day.’

A timeline of the Shoreham Air Show disaster in 2015

August 22, 2015, 1.22pm: A vintage Hawker Hunter jet flown by pilot Andrew Hill crashes mid-stunt on to the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex during an airshow, killing 11 men.

August 23: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Sussex Police all launch probes into the crash.

August 24: The CAA temporarily grounds all Hawker Hunters and limits vintage jets to flypasts during airshows.

September 2: The identities of all 11 victims are officially confirmed as an inquest is opened and adjourned by West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield. 

December 15: Hill is interviewed by police officers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team under caution after voluntarily attending a station near his Hertfordshire home but is not arrested.

April 14, 2016: The CAA says it is tightening rules for all show organisers when it publishes its final report in the wake of the crash.

July 8: It emerges police are investigating Hill for manslaughter by gross negligence and endangerment of life under air navigation laws.

January 24, 2017: The CAA agrees to accept all the safety measures made by the AAIB in the wake of the tragedy, meaning stricter safety rules for pilots and organisers, after it initially rejected almost half of the recommendations.

March 3: The AAIB publishes its findings in a 219-page report following one of its longest investigations in recent years. Investigators found the disaster was caused by the pilot flying too slow and too low.

Julie Smith, mother of 26-year-old Richard Smith from Hove, said: ‘2015 will forever be the worst year of our lives.

‘On the day Richard was killed he was riding to meet a friend and colleague for a bike ride into the South Downs – he didn’t know about the airshow. He often rode that route.

‘Richard’s loss has devastated us beyond anyone could have imagined and we think of him constantly.’

Dylan Archer, 42 and from Brighton, was a friend of Richard Smith’s and they were riding to the South Downs together when the tragedy occurred.

A family statement read out by lawyer Sarah Stewart said: ‘This incident has taken a significant toll on our family. To lose someone so young is an unbelievable tragedy but to lose them in the way we did is impossible to comprehend.

‘Dylan had a sweet and loving nature – he was kind and gentle, silly and fun.’

A statement by the four eldest daughters of 76-year-old Maurice Abrahams from Brighton was read to the court and said: ’11 lives were extinguished in a nanosecond through no fault of their own. The shock and upset left behind is as fresh today as it was then.’

The family of Anthony Brightwell, 53 and from Hove, submitted a written tribute which said: ‘Tony loved travelling and experiencing different cultures, languages and new foods.

‘His love of aircraft and Second World War history was what brought him to Shoreham Airshow on that fateful day as he wanted to see one of the last flights of the Vulcan.’

A brief statement read out on behalf of the parents of 24-year-old Matthew Jones from Littlehampton simply said: ‘What changed that day? Everything.’

And the sisters of Daniele Polito, 23 and from Goring-by-Sea, shared a written statement with the court which said: ‘From birth Daniele had a charm no-one could resist and his cheeky smile lit up the room.

‘He cared deeply about all of his family, especially his mum, and we all wish he had a little more time having departed at the very young age of 23.’

Summaries of the victims’ post-mortem reports found two victims, Matthew Jones and Daniele Polito, would have died immediately from their injuries at the point of impact. 

Pen portraits paying tribute to James Graham Mallinson, 72 and from Newick, Sussex, and Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both aged 23 and from Brighton were read to the court on Wednesday. 

The inquest continues on Monday.

The pilot, Andrew Hill (pictured), was charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence but found not guilty on all counts in March 2019 

Who were the 11 victims of the 2015 Shoreham air disaster?

Maurice Abrahams

Maurice Abrahams, 76:

Chauffeur Mr Abrahams, from Brighton, was en route in his classic Daimler to collect bride Rebecca Sheen and take her to her wedding when the plane crashed.

A former police officer with Hampshire Constabulary, he was an ex-member of the Grenadier Guards and Parachute Regiment, and had served in Cyprus and Bahrain with the UN.

In his later years, he enjoyed working for East Sussex-based Chariots Chauffeurs as well as gardening.

His funeral was held at St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean, where he had driven brides to their weddings countless times.

Married to Edwina, Mr Abrahams had a son, Eddie, and daughter Lizzie.

Graham Mallinson

James Graham Mallinson, known as Graham, 72:

Retired engineer Mr Mallinson, from Newick, near Lewes, had gone to Shoreham to photograph one of the last Vulcan bomber flights.

Relatives said he was kind and generous with a ‘great sense of humour’. 

He was a private and loving family man, they added.

A lifetime member of the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, married father Mr Mallinson had recently developed an interest in photographing vintage aircraft.

Father-of-six Mark Trussler

Mark Trussler, 54:

Father-of-six Mr Trussler, a window cleaner from Worthing, had taken his motorbike for a spin on the day of the tragedy as he had also wanted to see the Vulcan flight.

While in Shoreham, he texted his fiancee Giovanna Chirico telling her to get the children ready so they could take them out for lunch on his return home.

She told him she loved him and his last words to her were, ‘I love you too, forever’.

A motorbike and rugby fan, he was also described as a doting father.

 Tony Brightwell, 53:

Health care manager Mr Brightwell, from Hove, was indulging his twin passions of planes and cycling when tragedy struck.

His fiancee Lara watched him cycle off to watch one of the last Vulcan bomber flights, ‘but he never came home’, she said.

Mr Brightwell gained his private pilot licence at Shoreham, loved food and cooking, and admired Second World War pilots.

Dylan Archer, 42, and Richard Smith, 26:

IT consultant Mr Archer, a father of two who lived in Brighton, and Mr Smith, who lived in Hove, were due to meet up with a third friend to head out for a cycle ride in the South Downs.

Mr Archer, who grew up in the Midlands, had a lifelong passion for bikes and cars, and rode the bike he made himself on the day he died.

Dylan Archer and Richard Smith were due to meet up with a third friend to go on a cycle ride when they were killed in the Shoreham tragedy 

After going to university in Birmingham, Buckinghamshire-raised Mr Smith worked in a bicycle shop in Cosham, Portsmouth.

He later moved to Hove where he worked in marketing and web development at ActSmart, a firm that specialises in providing advice to the cycle industry.  

Mark Reeves, 53:

Computer-aided design technician Mr Reeves, from Seaford, near Eastbourne, had parked his motorbike to take photographs of planes when the crash happened.

A grandfather, relatives described him as a ‘sun worshipper’ who would often be seen relaxing with a cocktail in hand on holiday.

His family said he was combining two favourite hobbies of riding his cherished Honda bike to take photographs at the air show.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23:

The two Worthing United footballers were travelling together in a car to a 3pm home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash.

Mr Grimstone’s parents Sue and Phil and brothers David and Paul called him the ‘kindest person you could ever meet’.

Team-mates said Mr Schilt was a ‘tenacious midfielder’ with an eye for a goal.

Mr Grimstone had also worked at Brighton & Hove Albion for seven years, most recently as a groundsman at the Lancing training ground.

Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23, were travelling to Worthing United to play in a home game against Loxwood FC when they were caught up in the crash

Matt Jones, 24, and Daniele Polito, 23:

Father Daniele Polito, from Worthing, was travelling in the same car as personal trainer Matt Jones when tragedy struck.

Mr Polito’s mother Leslye Polito said on the first anniversary of the disaster that the previous 12 months had failed to ease her loss. 

A keen DJ, Mr Jones had reportedly recently returned to the UK from living in Australia.

Matt Jones and Daniele Polito both died in the same car  

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