SHOREHAM-BY-SEA has been left “numb” by the fatal air-show crash there last Saturday, the Vicar has said.
The Revd Ann Waizeneker, Vicar of New Shoreham and Shoreham Beach, in West Sussex, said on Tuesday that the town was subdued and quiet in the wake of the disaster. “I think people are still a bit numb. One of my churches has a book of condolence, and there has been a steady stream of people to sign it and spend some time in quiet.”
A Hawker Hunter jet crashed into traffic on the A27 near the town when its pilot attempted to loop the loop during the RAFA Shoreham Air Show. Four of the dead had been officially named, but police said that they expected to confirm that there were 11 fatalities
Services on Sunday at Ms Waizeneker’s town-centre church, St Mary de Hausa, included prayers for those who had died. Candles were lit, and a minute’s silence was also held. Ms Waizeneker said that prayers for the “traumatised emergency services” were also said.
“In the evening we had a Taizé-style service, which was helpful. In the morning, the church was full: people came who you wouldn’t normally see in church.”
A local newspaper reported that two players from Worthing United football club also attended, to pay their respects after learning that two teammates who were on their way to a match died in the crash.
The chaplain of Gatwick Airport, Canon Jonathan Baldwin, was called in to provide support at the weekend in his capacity as a chaplain to Sussex Police. He said he spent hours at a leisure centre near by, where police recuperated during breaks from combing through the crash wreckage.
The officers worked “tremendously hard” in the scorching heat of the day and needed time to rest and recover, he said. “As a chaplain, you’re not there to speak: you’re there to listen, to hear people’s stories, and to support them.
“It was a traumatic accident, which involved such a terrible loss of life. You don’t go to work and expect to have to deal with that.”
The pilot of the jet, Andy Hill, remains in hospital in a critical condition. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun to look into the cause of the accident, and the Civil Aviation Authority has announced new rules banning vintage jets from performing “high-energy aerobatics” at air shows.
Prayers have also been said at Chichester Cathedral. The Dean, the Very Revd Stephen Waine, said that the cathedral community shared the sense of shock at the accident, and were praying for those who died, their friends and family, and the emergency services.
The Bishop of Horsham, the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, said in a statement: “The tragedy of Saturday’s air crash has touched the entire county and country. Our hearts go out to all the victims of this crash and our prayers go up for them and for all those who have been traumatised by this sad event.
“Chaplains and other clergy will continue their support of all concerned and especially those in the emergency services.”
The diocese of Chichester has also released prayers that can be used during quiet reflection in the churches that have opened their doors to the community. “For those in confusion and those in despair, for those whose tears are yet to dry, for those in need of your unending love. Lord have mercy. Amen.”
Ms Waizeneker said that the churches had a crucial part to play at such times. “I think it is a place to go,” she said. “The church can provide a quiet and sacred space for reflection and also an action which is part of coming to terms with it — perhaps lighting a candle or saying a prayer.”