A FIRE chief among the first on the scene of the Shoreham Airshow disaster has spoken of the ‘horrific’ scene that faced him.
Duty officer Roy Barraclough rushed to the crash site when he heard the bang of the military jet hitting the A27.
The devastation that he encountered was so severe that he and many of his colleagues have sought counselling in an attempt to come to terms with what they witnessed.
He said: “We are prepared for major incidents and air accidents but no amount of training can prepare you for being there because it’s certainly not what you’re expecting.
“Firefighters and the team are human beings and have seen some horrific things that they are expected to deal with. The crew were faced with a formidable task and it was very traumatic.”
Mr Barraclough described how the ‘carnival atmosphere’ at the 26th airshow quickly changed when it became clear what had happened.
Driving around the airport perimeter and following a fire engine to the scene, he wondered which side of the A27 the plane had crashed – but did not expect it to have hit the road.
His role was to lead the tactical response, following the emergency plans he had helped craft weeks prior to the event.
But the unimaginable stress of dealing with the disaster was initially hampered by a small minority of the public, who insisted on videoing the aftermath.
He said: “All the emergency services worked very carefully together and there was a fantastic professional relationship in what was the worst disaster in Sussex I have seen, certainly since the Grand Hotel bombing in 1984, which I was involved in.
“There were people in shock but some people behaved quite disgustingly, wandering round with video cameras and they refused to stop.
“They didn’t seem to be affected. A lot of people were very severely shocked and needed help. It makes it much more stressful when people are videoing everything you do.”
The fire service has continued to support the ongoing recovery mission.
The ‘painstaking’ recovery process is being led by specialist police officers, working in teams to identify victims and gather evidence at the crash scene.
Former crime scene investigator Martin Bloomfield explained police would be working to national guidelines, the ‘Disaster Victim Recovery’ protocol, documenting every find with the utmost dignity.
He said: “There will be a great deal of professionalism and cracking on with the job in hand. There is a lot to think about and documentation required and processing and it is very much a team effort that will get them through.
“There will be a support mechanism afterwards and a big debrief after. They are very much focused on a dignified recovery of the deceased.”
Mr Bloomfield said his former colleagues were being well looked after by the Red Cross during their 10-12 hour shifts.
Members of the community have been offering supplies and Brighton and Hove Albion’s Lancing training ground has been used as a base for workers.
The fire service has an established team of counsellors who are supporting firefighters.
Mr Barraclough, also a borough councillor for Goring, said: “They are shocked as well as the public.
“I don’t believe there is anything we could have done that could have made a difference to the injuries and amount of deaths. Our sincerest condolences go out to the relations of everybody. We do feel for the whole town.
“The whole of Worthing and Shoreham is going to be mourning when all the names of everyone are released. It’s going to be a difficult thing for the town to cope with.”