Shoreham air crash heroine receives Royal honour

A Burgess Hill doctor who put her life on the line to save the pilot of the jet which crashed at Shoreham Airshow was honoured by royalty in London yesterday.

Drs Eastman and Jackson and Tony Kemp with Princess Alexander after receiving their awards.
Drs Eastman and Jackson and Tony Kemp with Princess Alexander after receiving their awards.

Dr Karen Eastman, from the Brow Medical Centre at Burgess Hill; Dr Marianne Jackson from New Pond Row Surgery in Lancing; and nurse Tony Kemp of Tunbridge Wells, were all presented with Royal Humane Society testimonials on vellum.

Between them they fought to save the pilot and other casualties after last year’s Shoreham Airshow disaster.

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The awards, which were personally approved and signed by Princess Alexandra, President of the Society, were presented by her at the Society’s annual court at Haberdasher’s Hall in London. And afterwards the Princess talked privately with the heroic trio.

Dr Eastman with her award

Describing their actions before the presentation, Society secretary Dick Wilkinson outlined the dangers they had faced from aviation fuel fires and possible explosions, as well as the horrors of the aftermath of the crash which left a swathe of destruction and scattered body parts.

Tony Kemp was on duty as the senior volunteer clinician at Shoreham Airfield providing cover for the air show. Drs Eastman and Jackson were both attending the show as spectators but came forward to offer their help after the crash.

Mr Kemp and Dr Eastman put their lives on the line to rescue Andrew Hill, pilot of the crashed Hawker Hunter. Dr Jackson concentrated on helping other casualties.

Mr Wilkinson said today that Mr Kemp and Dr Eastman joined forces to go in search of the pilot.

He continued: “They went together to the crash site. There were numerous fires and debris and body parts spread across a wide area. To reach the pilot, they went into a wooded area that was extremely dry, due to recent good weather.

“They went down into a ditch, some six to eight feet below the A27 carriageway, through the debris of the crash. The terrain underfoot was difficult, with broken trees and bushes. The remains of the plane were in two main parts.

“The fuselage was ablaze and there was a massive plume of smoke and flames. The source was the aviation fuel, that rapidly ignited the surrounding scrub and trees. The wind (15 knots) was blowing the fumes directly towards them and their entry route was obstructed by fire.

“During the time they were working, the flames moved from ten metres to six metres behind them. The pilot was lying alongside his aircraft and the ejector seat, still armed, was nearby. Mr Kemp and Dr Eastman could not move the pilot alone, but decided his serious injuries were not life threatening so they carried out basic life support first aid on him. When paramedics arrived Mr Kemp helped them take the pilot away on a stretcher.”

After that Mr Kemp and Dr Eastman joined in helping other casualties at the crash site.

The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. It is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

It was founded in 1774 by two of the day’s eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan. Their primary motive was to promote techniques of resuscitation.

However, as it emerged that numerous people were prepared to put their own lives at risk to save others, the awards scheme evolved, and today a variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.

The Society also awards non health care professionals who perform a successful resuscitation. Since it was set up the Society has considered over 86,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards. The Society is a registered charity which receives no public funding and is dependent on voluntary donations.

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