The death toll after a vintage fighter jet ploughed into a busy road in southern England while performing an acrobatics display could approach 20, police said on Monday, as Britain began reviewing its safety procedures at airshows.
The Hawker Hunter plane, of a type developed by Britain in the 1950s, struck several cars on Saturday on the major road next to Shoreham airport near Brighton, where the show was taking place.
The crash was the third – and by far the most deadly – at the event since 2007.
Police said on Sunday they feared 11 people had died. A senior officer said that figure was likely to rise as police gained access to more areas of the accident scene.
“It’s too early to tell but I’d be surprised if (the death toll) doesn’t go above 11,” Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry was quoted as telling the BBC.
“If it would be below 20 then that would be probably the best estimate that I could give you at this stage.”
In 2007, a pilot was killed at Shoreham after his World War Two Hurricane aircraft crashed just north of the same road and three years later a stunt glider pilot survived a crash there.
The Royal Air Forces Association, which helps organise the show, said on Monday that the team running the event had many years’ experience nationally and needed to meet tough safety standards set by Britain’s air transport regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Amateur video footage of Saturday’s crash showed two big explosions and black plumes of smoke after the jet hit the ground.
Police said the large number of attendees as well motorists and cyclists on the road made it difficult to confirm the identities of the victims.
Two footballers from nearby amateur team Worthing United were among those killed, the club said.
The road, a major artery for traffic along the south coast, remained closed on Monday. Barry said the wreckage of the aircraft was due to be moved later in the day.
The CAA said that, while Britain’s safety standards were among the most stringent in the world, its review would look at whether improvements could be made. “We … remain committed to continuously enhancing the safety of all civil aviation,” a spokesman said.
Several crashes have occurred during other air displays in Britain in recent years, the latest three weeks ago when a stunt plane crashed at a car festival in Cheshire, northwest England, killing the pilot.