Eleven men who died in the Shoreham Airshow plane crash in 2015 were unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.
Coroner Penelope Schofield concluded on Tuesday that a “series of gross errors” led to the deaths of 11 people.
She added, each man “was unlawfully killed when a Hawker Hunter T7 aircraft crashed while attempting an incorrectly flown looping manoeuvre”.
Delivering her narrative verdict, the coroner said: “Eleven innocent lives were cruelly lost on 22 August 2015. Lives that were cut way too short.”
In March 2019, Andy Hill, the pilot flying the Hawker Hunter jet, was cleared of manslaughter following an Old Bailey trial which lasted seven weeks.
Ms Schofield said that her recorded narrative verdict of unlawful killing, did not “detract from the fact” of Mr Hill’s acquittal in a criminal court, but it was “clear and obvious” that the pilot should have abandoned the manoeuvre he was undertaking, adding: “This was not a close or difficult judgement call.”
Speaking to the packed courtroom in County Hall North in Horsham, West Sussex, she said: “Even experienced pilots on the ground could see (the plane) was too low.
“The poor position of the plane in the sky was a further significant error – this plane should not have been lined up with a dual carriageway.”
Addressing the condition that Mr Hill was in, she said: “The pilot appeared conscious throughout. The aircraft responded to the pilot’s control inputs.
“The pilot either did not perceive that an escape manoeuvre was necessary or did not realise that one was possible at the speed achieved at the apex of the manoeuvre.
“There was no evidence of any G-related impairment of the pilot during the aerobatic sequence flown.
“The G-force experienced by the pilot during the manoeuvre was probably not a factor in the crash.”
Ms Schofield added that it was possible that two cyclists who died during the disaster seven years ago would not have been killed had road signs for pedestrians in the area been clearer.
She said it would have been “completely understandable for a cyclist” to be “wholly unaware” that a lights crossing on the A27 had been disabled.
“Whilst I can’t determine what Mr Smith and Mr Archer would have done, I find that it is possible they would have taken a different route with their bicycles that day, and would not have been standing at the junction when the plane crashed.
“This huge loss will be worn by the families for the rest of their lives.”
She added: “It has been a long journey, some seven years for you, to get the answers you wanted.
“It has been a difficult journey getting to this stage. I hope you feel that through these proceedings, you now have a voice.”
In 2019, Mr Hill said he had no memory of what happened on 22 August 2015, but believes he must have been cognitively impaired or disorientated to have made such a catastrophic mistake to crash his 1950s jet on to a busy dual carriageway.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey following the verdict, Mr Hill read out the names of the 11 men who died in the crash and said: “I’m truly sorry for the part I played in their deaths.”
On Tuesday afternoon, a number of members of the victims’ families were present and were in tears as the remarks were delivered.
Following the conclusion, Sarah Stewart, partner at law firm Stewarts, who represented a number of families in the disaster, said: “The families we represent would like to thank the senior coroner for her thorough investigation.
“The bereaved families have waited more than seven years to reach this point and, although the senior coroner’s conclusion will not ease the pain of their loss, their voices have been heard.”