A military jet taking part in a British airshow crashed into a busy main road Saturday, killing seven people and injuring more than a dozen others, police said.

The Hawker Hunter fighter jet, which was participating in the Shoreham Airshow near Brighton in southern England, hit several vehicles on a nearby road as it crashed Saturday afternoon. Witnesses told local TV that the jet appeared to have crashed when it failed to pull out of a loop maneuver.

West Sussex Police said seven people died at the scene and one patient with life-threatening injuries was taken to the hospital. Another 14 people were treated for minor injuries.

News video and photographs showed a fireball erupting near trees and huge plumes of thick black smoke rising. A witness, Stephen Jones, told the BBC that the pilot had just begun his display.

"He'd gone up into a loop and as he was coming out of the loop I just thought, you're too low, you're too low, pull up. And he flew straight into the ground either on or very close to the A27, which runs past the airport," Jones said.

The force said all the deaths were believed to have occurred on the road, and no one on the airfield was believed injured. It was not known whether the pilot was able to eject.

The road was closed in both directions Saturday.

Crashes at British airshows are rare, but in 2007 the pilot of a World War II Hurricane died at the Shoreham Airshow after performing an unplanned barrel-roll.

"We mustn't rush to knee jerk reactions about the safety of airshows," said Tim Loughton, a member of Britain's parliament who represents Shoreham. "This is an airshow that's been going for 26 years, only the second time there's been any serious accident, and the first time that spectators and people on the ground have been affected, bad though that is."