Shoreham air crash survivors thought they were going to die in ‘fireball’

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Survivors of the Shoreham air crash that left 11 people dead have relived the harrowing moment they were engulfed in a “fireball”.

Witnesses of the disaster have told how they “thought they were going to die” after the Hawker Hunter plane crashed into the A27 while performing a loop-the-loop.

One man had to leap out of his burning car while another man’s daughter told him: “Dad your face and ears are gone.”

A cyclist who stopped to take photos of the fighter jet realised his skin was “loose” after he had been “consumed” by the fireball.

Their harrowing accounts were read to the jury in the manslaughter trial of pilot Andrew Hill.

The jury was shown a video of the pilot attempting a loop-the-loop before the plane came down behind a line of trees then exploded in a huge ball of fire.

Software engineer Thomas Milburn, from Worthing, West Sussex, had cycled to Shoreham and stopped to take photos of the airshow.

He described how in a split second he realised the plane was going to crash.

Mr Milburn said: “I thought it was going to hit me. From my sitting position I immediately lay down, put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.

“I heard an explosion. I felt a wave of pressure coming towards me. Through my eyelids I saw a bright orange light. I felt extreme heat through my skin.

“I really thought I was going to die. I thought I would be consumed by burning fuel.

“I realised I had been engulfed or partially engulfed by a fireball. Everything around me was silent.”

He added: “As I was running I realised the skin on my hands and arms felt loose.”

Mr Milburn suffered burns to his arms, legs and back, the Old Bailey heard.

He said: “I felt I was lucky to be alive. Very weary, a sense of disbelief about what happened. It seemed like a dream.”

Paul Snellgrove was watching the airshow with his family, including his granddaughter, and took photos of the plane as it turned into a loop.

He thought at first it was going to do an “impressive manoeuvre” but then noticed it was going slow and low, the court heard.

Mr Snellgrove said he heard a “crunch” as the plane came down on the dual carriageway in West Sussex on 22 August 2015.

He described being thrown over a child’s pushchair and his daughter after the aircraft plummeted into the road.

Mr Snellgrove said: “I started to feel a burning sensation down my face. I was in absolute agony.

“My daughter said ‘Dad, your face and ears are gone’. I shouted ‘run’.

“Everyone that I had seen before the crash had gone. I don’t know what happened to them.”

Mr Snellgrove said he was “on the point of passing out” but was told to stay awake before he was treated at the scene.

Peter Reed, who is retired, leapt from his burning car while it was still moving to escape the flames.

He said he began to panic after hearing a “massive bang”.

Mr Reed added: “I had the strong impression that my vehicle was on fire and it was going to explode.

“I decided I needed to get out of my still-moving vehicle. I leapt out of my car. I saw my car continuing along the road, finally coming to a stop.

“I felt my arms were hot where I had been burnt but otherwise I felt unscathed.”

He said there was thick black smoke and cars burning.

Mr Reed added he heard someone saying “Where’s the pilot?” and realised it was a plane crash.

He continued: “At the time my vehicle was engulfed in flames I was absolutely terrified.”

Mr Reed said he has suffered flashbacks and had difficulty sleeping since the crash.

Hill, 54, of Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, denies 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

(c) Sky News 2019: Shoreham air crash survivors thought they were going to die in ‘fireball’

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