On Saturday the 22nd August a terrible accident occurred at the Shoreham Air Show in West Sussex when a Hunter T7, G-BXFI (WV372) crashed into the A27 killing at least 11 people on the ground. By some miracle the pilot, Andy Hill was pulled from the wreckage alive, but in a critical condition. Sadly the death toll is expected to rise as there were many “off-site” spectators in the area.
Given the nature of the event there were many people shooting photographs and video of the aerobatic stunts being carried out by the aircraft and literally within minutes of the tragedy occurring Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were filling up with images of the crash in a what can only be described as competition to post the most horrific picture possible to get the most retweets or likes.
The press of course, most notable the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Mirror, immediately started contacting people asking to use the pictures in their own game of outdoing each other on the horror photo stakes. I saw one tweet from the Daily Mail asking one poster if they “could use the great pic” posted. Is there anything great about tragedy and loss of life?
So here we have the inherent problem with social media, people don’t think before posting. It’s almost normal now for any tragedy to be posted on the internet not giving consideration to the victims, or more importantly to their families.
One picture posted on twitter showed a group of people directly in line of the jet, all recognisable, with the jet in flames careering towards them. I found it harrowing, let alone if a relative of a victim saw that! The same picture was posted on the Daily Mail and Express web sites. I have no idea as to whether those in the picture were killed, injured or walked away but then, neither could the photographer given the chaos at the scene. But yet, the pictures kept on coming. Furthermore within 1 hour there was a High Definition video of the crash in its entirety, shown on many news channels, granted the actual impact was blurred out by the BBC and Sky News. The same couldn’t be said for the blood thirsty press who showed it in full.
Another picture showed a car which had clearly taken the full impact of the jet within minutes of it happening and clearly with the victim(s) still in the vehicle. This again was shown with abandon by the gutter press.
Combine that with the total insensitivity of some people who tweeted moaning about being stuck in traffic from the airshow, one person tweeted about seeing a “great crash at shoreham air show” and less than 24 hours after the crash, the infamous ex-blogger @inspgadgetblogs tweeted:
I hope Shoreham Air Show insurers have deep pockets.
— Inspector Gadget (@InspGadgetBlogs) August 24, 2015
The other problem with these posts is it fosters speculation, suddenly everyone becomes an aviation expert dishing out their opinions on what probably caused the crash and how Air Shows should be banned (I credit the latter to Daily Mail/Express readers!) to the point that I wonder why the government employs experts to run the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) when they could pick a couple of twitter users to do the same job!
The fact is this, no-one yet knows why this tragedy occurred and many families still don’t know if their loved ones were involved. Photos and Videos are a vital tool to aid the official investigation not for posting on social media in a retweet fest and shouldn’t be sold to gore hungry press out to get the most page views. Especially when they show potential victims who are identifiable.
I appeal to you that if you ever have the misfortune to witness a tragedy like this, and I have on 2 occasions, think twice before posting it on social media or giving it to the press and instead wait for the official request from the AAIB or other investigatory body and send the media to them. It will be the most helpful thing you can do for the investigation, and for the victims and their families.
If you do have any pictures or video of the tragic events at Shoreham then please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is deliberately image free.