Sunday, September 16, 2007

Colin McRae Dies In Helicopter Crash

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LONDON (AFP) — Former world rally champion Colin McRae and his five-year-old son were among four people killed in a helicopter crash this weekend in southern Scotland, police said Sunday.

Scotsman McRae, his son Johnny and two family friends including a six-year-old boy were killed when the 39-year-old driver's Squirrel Two aircraft crashed in the grounds of his Lanark home on Saturday.

Tributes poured in from the sporting and political arenas in honour of McRae, who in 1995 was the first Briton to win the world rally championship.

"We believe that the group were just returning from a visit to the nearby village of Quarter around 1605 (1505 GMT) hours yesterday, when it appears that the helicopter got into difficulty and crashed within the grounds of Mr McRae's family home," Chief Superintendent Tim Love said in a statement issued by Strathclyde Police.

"Our officers are working closely with the Air Accident Investigation Team who are presently at the scene.

"Family liaison officers have been appointed and are with the families to help them through this distressing and difficult time."

The two others were named as six-year-old Ben Porcelli, of Lanark, and Graeme Duncan, 37, who lived in France.

A police spokeswoman stressed that the bodies had not yet been formally identified.

The crash wreckage, which was in thick woods, was so bad it was initially difficult to determine how many people were involved.

Colin Steele McRae, a licensed pilot, was born in Lanark on August 5, 1968.

He had two children, Hollie and Johnny, with his wife Alison.

Nicky Grist, McRae's co-driver since 1997, expressed his sorrow.

"He was such a great character and will be sorely missed," he told Sky News, adding that the death of Johnny and the two friends made it an even greater tragedy.

"Johnny adored his father and loved everything about cars," Grist said.

"I am sure he was the new rally driver for the McRae family."

David Richards, McRae's former boss at Subaru -- where he enjoyed much of his rallying success -- described his death as "a terrible loss."

"He had a competitive spirit like I've never seen," Richards tod the BBC.

"He was one of those people who had an extraordinary spirit that you just can't define."

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, said McRae's death was a "great tragedy."

"Colin McRae was an outstanding Scottish sportsman of international stature and achievement," he said.

McRae competed in his first rally on the World Rally Championship circuit in Sweden in 1987, earning his first win in New Zealand in 1993.

Driving a Subaru Impreza 555, the Scot won the 1995 World Rally Championship in a nail-biting finish on home soil and was the runner-up in 1996, 1997 and 2001.

He was made a MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996.

The driving legend is also known for "Colin McRae Rally" -- a series of racing video games, played on many platforms, which have sold more than eight million copies worldwide.

The rally driver's official website, www.colinmcrae.com, was changed to a black screen on Sunday morning, prior to police confirmation of his death.

"I'm not really a fan of computers," McRae was quoted as saying on his website before it went offline.

He added: "When it comes to computers and electronics, give me 300 brake horsepower, a winding road -- and no brakes, and then you've got my attention!"


Thoughts are with the McRae family. RIP.

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