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Police Fear Airshow Crash Toll Could Rise to 20

Witnesses describe seeing a "ball of fire" after a plane crashed at an airshow in the U.K., killing several people. (Image Sky News)
Witnesses describe seeing a "ball of fire" after a plane crashed at an airshow in the U.K., killing several people. (Image Sky News)

LONDON -- Police say the death toll in the crash of a  vintage jet fighter  in southeastern England will probably rise as emergency workers clear away wreckage on the freeway where the plane went down.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry of Sussex Police told the BBC on Monday that he'd be surprised if the number of deaths "doesn't go above" the 11 currently known. But Barry said he "would be really surprised if it would be more than 20."

The Hawker Hunter jet plummeted onto a highway Saturday after it failed to pull out of a loop maneuver during the Shoreham Airshow, exploding in a huge fireball and plowing through cars on the road. The wreckage is scheduled to be removed from the site, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) south of London, on Monday.

"It's an absolute devastating scene," Barry said. "It's about 400 yards of the dual carriage way and extends into the airfield itself. And there is debris and damage littered everywhere, so it's an incredibly traumatic incident."

Barry said that authorities have been mapping and recording the scene. A crane will lift the aircraft from the trees, but authorities say it will be a very delicate operation.

"There is a suggestion that, there's still fuel in the aircraft and the status of the ejector seats suggests that there still may be some charge in them, so it's obviously very important that that's all made safe before the aircraft is moved," Barry said.

The Civil Aviation Authority has begun reviewing safety procedures but said that events such as this are very rare. Some critics have called for new rules calling for air displays to take place only over water.

The pilot, former Royal Air Force instructor Andy Hill, 51, is in critical condition.

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