A dad and his eight-year-old daughter watched in shock as the Hawker Hunter plane that crashed during the Shoreham Airshow came to rest just metres in front of them.
In fact, Terry Smith, from Worthing, was so close to the plane that he was grazed by a small piece of debris, following the impact.
Speaking to the Herald today, a shaken Mr Smith said: “It was a lovely sunny day, idyllic really. The Hunter turned up and flew across the airfield quite low. I looked for it but couldn’t see it again. The next bit I can’t get out of my mind. I looked up to see the plane flying quite low towards the cars. That’s when that ‘oh my God!’ moment hit – ‘this is surreal. It isn’t happening’. I can’t describe what that feels like. The impact was just massive – a huge fireball.
“My daughter was in shock. I just grabbed her and we went as far back to the bushes as we could. The heat, it was like someone throwing a gallon of petrol on the barbecue and being close to it.”
An aviation enthusiast, Mr Smith said he had attended hundreds of airshows and had watched the Shoreham Airshow from a spot of land close to the former Sussex Pad for a number of years, describing it as a good vantage point.
“The flaming wreckage passed us on the other side of the dual carriageway,” said Mr Smith. “The plane came to a rest just passed the Sussex Pad. The moment after there was just a deadly silence. I can’t remember hearing anything. I could just make out this pattering noise of fragments. One piece went passed and grazed my leg. Like black snow was falling down from the sky.
“At that point the guy next to me went over to the cars that had collided. They seemed to be okay. I ran towards the smoke. As I looked through, there was the burning wreck of a car. There was nothing anyone could have done for the occupant of that vehicle.”
Mr Smith said there was a group of around 20 people where he had been stood. He described the mood as being one of disbelief.
He said: “One girl was just uncontrollably sobbing. I just went into a strange rage after. I kicked the ground and swore my head off. I couldn’t believe why this happened or how it happened. I snapped out of that and made sure my little one was all right.”
He wanted to thank a couple living inside the former Sussex Pad building for rounding up children and keeping them safe in the moments following the crash.
He said: “I have been to hundreds of airshows. You stand there in awe of the flying, but when something goes wrong you just can’t believe it’s happening. It’s like a bad dream.
“It’s going to live with me and other people all our lives. I love aviation, but right now I don’t want to see another aircraft.”
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