A stunt pilot performing aerial displays during an airshow this weekend passed away after his plane crashed during an exhibition at a popular outdoor car festival in Cheshire County, England. CarFest founder and BBC presenter Chris Evans confirmed on Saturday that 35-year-old Kevin Whyman, an Air Force-trained jet pilot flying with the Folland Gnat Display Team, had been killed during a synchro display, leaving behind a wife and daughter. Within minutes of the tragic accident, social media had erupted with photos of the Cheshire plane crash, detailing the enormity of the tragedy and the scary moments that followed.
"Think I've just witnessed a plane crash," tweeted spectator Johnathan Randall, who witnessed the incident. "Crowd looks glum, confused, concerned, [and] everyone['s] on their phones." He later added that emergency responders had arrived on the scene in two helicopters.
A stunned Evans told reporters later that the officials would be conducting an investigation into what happened, but added that the weekend's scheduled events would continue as planned.
"Our condolences go out to his family who have been informed," said Evans in a statement to the press, seeming to tear up. "The police have also advised us that the best thing, and the safest thing to do, is to carry on with the event — bearing in mind there are 10,000 children here, that's what we're going to do."
A BBC producer on the scene confirmed to reporters that the accident had occurred when one of two jets performing a "low-level, close-proximity pass" failed to pull up. One witness, Tessa Angel, who was in attendance with her husband on Saturday, told BBC reporters:
We saw two planes flying, weaving side by side. One was at a strange angle. My husband said: 'That's low. I hope he comes back up.' Then it went down. People were staring, asking what happened. I didn't see any parachute. There were sirens within seconds, then a helicopter hovering.
Other witnesses began posting photos of the tragic accident to their timelines as well, documenting the confusion and chaos on the ground nearby:
Swadlincote resident Jamie Goacher told reporters from The Derby Telegraph that there had been "no explosion" when the plane hit the ground.
"There was no sound of an explosion, just the smoke," said Goacher. "Then it felt like the whole place just fell silent ... it just seemed unreal."
The Heritage Aircraft Trust, the operator in charge of the team, put out a statement following the incident on Saturday, saying,
Heritage Aircraft Trust will be working with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Accidents Investigation Board to determine the cause of the accident. Kevin was a Royal Air Force trained fast jet pilot whose enthusiasm for flying the Folland Gnat was infectious. He will be greatly missed by his family, the Team, and many friends.