Updated: Death toll could hit 20 after plane crash into traffic near air show in West Sussex
- Credit: PA
Sussex Police has this morning revised the potential death toll again to 20 fatalities after the Shoreham air crash.
Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said yesterday police had identified 11 people they were treating as “highly likely to have died in this tragedy”.
He added they could not yet formally identify any of those who had died.
This morning the force said the death toll could rise to 20.
Mr Barry said: “This has been an enormously traumatic incident and our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected, from those who have suffered bereavement to those in the local community who are deeply shocked.”
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He added: “Sadly, as a result of our initial work at the site, which has continued overnight, and inquiries following calls to the emergency services from worried families and friends, we have now identified 11 people who we are treating as highly likely to have died in this tragedy.”
Mr Barry also warned that the death toll could rise further still.
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Investigators are keeping “an open mind” about who has been involved in the crash as they continue to receive calls from worried friends and relatives.
He said: “The scene itself is incredibly large. A lot of specially-trained officers are sifting, as we speak, so we do need to keep an open mind but from what we have seen at this stage it is possible that we will find more fatalities.”
Explaining why he could not say for certain that 11 people had died, Mr Barry said it was a “technical process” which needs help from the next of kin to identify any of the bodies which are recovered.
He said: “At the moment, it may be conjecture.
“We work really closely with the families and we have specially-trained officers giving the most up-to-date information to the families that helps inform us and effectively classifies them as highly-likely as having died in the crash.
“It is not until the body is recovered that we are able to fully identify who has been killed.”
Specialists from other police forces in the South East and the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service have been drafted into help with the recovery operation, Mr Barry said.
Removal of the bodies will carry on today and likely continue throughout tomorrow.
A crane will be brought in to lift the wreckage of the aircraft tomorrow, when police fear they may discover more dead.
An exclusion zone remains in place around the crash site, which is a hazardous area after investigators discovered there is still fuel on the plane.
Mr Barry said the status of the jet’s ejector seats was yet to be determined but confirmed the pilot was pulled from the burning wreckage.
He said: “The pilot who was freed from the wreckage yesterday remains in a critical condition in the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
“Others who were injured have all now been treated for their injuries.”
The A27 may be closed for several days as bodies are removed and investigators carry out their work before the aircraft and vehicles are removed.
The road itself was also badly damaged and will need to be repaired.
Mr Barry said the crash site was spread over an “extremely large area” covering about 400 yards on the Shoreham airfield itself.
He told Sky News: “We know nobody that was attending the air show was injured but we do fear that when we start to recover the victims we will find there are more fatalities.”
Dozens of staff are working on the investigation, supporting the AAIB and helping the body recovery operation.
Mr Barry said: “It is a very, very significant operation, the likes of which I have never seen before.”
He also said that speaking with the pilot was vitally important to their investigation, saying: “That will be a key avenue, that we would like to talk to the pilot and establish what occurred.
“It is quite clear what has occurred, but what we need to establish through the investigation is why it occurred.”
Both police and the AAIB have urged anyone with photos or footage of the crash to contact them as it may help with the investigation.
An AAIB spokesman said: “The on-site investigation into the causes of the crash is continuing, with the AAIB team working closely with Sussex Police and local emergency services.
“A preliminary report will be published when the initial stages of the investigation are completed. We ask if any members of the public with footage or photos of the crash could provide them to the AAIB as they could assist the investigation. They can do this by contacting email@example.com.”
Footage and pictures of the incident can also be sent to police, who urge people to contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org before sending any files.