Shocking moment plane slams into traffic
A COURT in London has been shown disturbing video footage of the moments before a plane crash that killed 11 people.
The fireball caused by the 2015 crash, near Brighton in southern England, was so fierce a prosecutor said some of the victims had quite simply "disappeared".
The victims, all men, included two mates who were off to play football at a nearby club, a pair of cyclists, several air show spectators and a 76-year-old chauffer who was on his way to pick up a bride on her wedding day.
The pilot of the doomed plane, Andrew Hill, is on trial charged with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. The former British Airways pilot has denied the charges.
In the seconds before the fighter jet crashed into a busy highway, Mr Hill had been attempting to perform a complex looping manoeuvre to impress aviation buffs at a nearby air show.
The jury was shown several clips of the vintage Hawker Hunter jet as it performed a so-called bent loop in the skies above Shoreham Airport in West Sussex.
Prosecutor Tom Kark QC warned jurors they might find the footage, which was filmed by a bystander standing behind a number of those who died, as "distressing", the BBC reported.
"You are in effect seeing these gentlemen in the last few seconds of their lives," he said.
The video clips shows the plane make the loop. But as it exits the manoeuvre the jet runs out of altitude and slams into the ground, creating a huge explosion.
Another video shows the jet as it approaches at speed the busy A27 road, which connects major towns and cities on England's south coast.
The footage cuts as the aircraft is level with the cars, just a moment before it crashed.
Mr Hill, 54, miraculously managed to escape the disaster scene after he was thrown clear of the plane.
Mr Kark told the court the crash was due to "pilot error" as the jet was too low and too slow to complete the stunt.
He said Mr Hill had played "fast and loose" with the rules and appeared to have a "cavalier attitude" towards safety, The Sun reported.
"At the crucial point when Mr Hill committed to the downward part of the loop, there was a serious and obvious risk of death to those on the ground - a risk that was to be tragically realised," Mr Kark said.
Mr Kark relayed the experience of David Milnes, an air show attendee, who was close to the crash site.
"He watched as the aircraft descended down onto the road and exploded. He heard a bang and started running as fast as he could away from the crash, aware that the wreckage would be coming his way," he said.
"He felt an enormous heat and fell to the floor. People that he had been standing next to had simply disappeared and the motorbikes he had noticed earlier were now just burning wreckage."
Expert witness Jonathan Whaley, who has flown more than 1000 hours in a Hawker Hunter, said Mr Hill made a "conscious decision to pull through the loop even though he appeared to be too low to do so". He described that as a "cardinal sin".
Karim Khalil QC, defending Mr Hill, said his client could have been paralysed by G-forces and was "unable to properly and fully control the aircraft".
"He is not a cavalier pilot and not a pilot who, as is suggested, plays fast and loose with the rules. Quite the contrary. He did not deliberately fail to take evasive action," Mr Khalil said.
The trial continues.