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Rally champion Colin McRae dies with son in helicopter crash


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Colin McRae feared dead in helicopter crash

By Brendan Montague and Jasper Copping

"Colin McRae, the former world rally driving champion, is feared dead in a helicopter crash in Scotland.

The aircraft burst into flames after it came down in woodland near Lanark, at around 4.10pm, killing everyone on board.

Jean-Eric Freudiger, McRae's agent, last night told The Sunday Telegraph he had spoken to the driver's brother and that he had confirmed the former champion had been piloting the Squirrel aircraft.

Speaking from his home in Switzerland, Mr Freudiger said he was still in shock and fighting back tears as he said he could not reach Mr McRae's wife, Alison.

He added: "I have heard that it was his aircraft. He was in the helicopter. I cannot believe it was a helicopter pilot error because as my best friend and the godfather of my daughter I know he was a very safe pilot.

"We have been close business partners and friends for seven years. He is the best person I have ever met in my life. I have to try and understand what I have just been told."

The aircraft, which was registered to McRae, came down in Jervis Wood, around a mile from Mr McRae's home at Bellefield Road in Lanark.

The 39-year-old McRae – who has two children, Hollie and Johnny – became Britain's first World Rally Champion in 1995 and was still competing in the sport.

His father, Jimmy, was a five-time British rally champion, while his younger brother, Alister, is also a professional driver. Mr McRae has said he uses his helicopter, as well as a six-seater jet, to travel between his homes in Scotland, Monaco and Majorca.

He once told reporters: "I don't have things for show. I'm not brash and I'm not on an ego trip. If I buy something it is because I genuinely want or need it."

Squirrel helicopters can carry up to six people and police were last night unable to say how many people were on board.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said: "There is at least one dead and no one survived the crash. We don't yet know how many people were on board."

The crash was witnessed by a farmer. The aircraft was so badly damaged by fire that police could not initially identify what type it was.

The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed that its own helicopter had been despatched to the scene along with three ambulance crews.

Strathclyde Fire Brigade also sent units to the scene.

The RAF spokesman added that its helicopter was on stand-by to assist. Police have cordoned off the area and the Air Accident Investigation Branch has been informed.

A spokesman for the British Airports Authority said the helicopter did not come from Glasgow or Edinburgh Airports.

Four people were killed when a Squirrel helicopter crashed in Cambridgeshire, earlier this year. "

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THE former rally driving champion Colin McRae was killed and his five year-old son feared dead in a helicopter crash yesterday afternoon. The aircraft came down in Jerviswood, Lanarkshire, half a mile from the family's home and burst into flames just after 4pm.

Jean-Eric Freudiger, McRae's agent, said the 39-year-old driver had been piloting the helicopter himself. Also on board were believed to be his son Johnny, another adult and another child. Police said there were no survivors.

McRae's wife Alison and their daughter Hollie, 9, were not on board, friends said.

McRae became Britain's first World Rally champion in 1995. He was one of the country's most successful sportsmen, achieving 25 wins in World Rally events and 42 podium places. He was a flamboyant driver, inspiring one the world's best-selling computer rally games.

The helicopter came down within half a mile of McRae's home, Jervis House, a 16th-century tower house, which has an adjacent helipad. The weather had been overcast, with a light breeze, but visibility was good.

Strathclyde police said the extent of the fire damage was making identification a problem.

McRae's wife, a childhood sweetheart and his former co-driver, was taken back to the house under police escort shortly after 6pm. She looked calm, but neighbours gathering outside the house looked shaken with grief.

McRae's friend the rally journalist Jeremy Hart who flew with the champion several times described him as a "very good, very measured pilot whose natural ability with machinery was second to none". "Colin regularly flew all over the UK and into Europe," said Hart. "He knew the terrain and conditions at Jerviswood very well. It was the place he flew into most regularly.

"As a driver Colin was misunderstood slightly as being reckless but everything you saw with him came from pure raw talent as opposed to being learnt. He was the Michael Schumacher of rally driving.

"It's so ironic that he should die in a helicopter crash when he had competed and had brushed with death so many times as a rally driver."

RIP Colin :( :( tombstone.gifcheckeredflag.gif

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thats very sad... R.I.P.

whoaw... can't believe it... thats so sudden!

Glassed Silver:mac

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What a shame, i used to follow McRae when he drove for Subaru, then Ford and then Citroen, i remember his big crash when he hit a cow(or a bull i cant remember) and went down the edge of the cliff.

He was an awesome rally driver, RIP.

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