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BBC Paris correspondent Jon Sopel
"It appears Coulthard and the other two survivors were extremely lucky"
 real 28k

Bernard Chaffange, director Lyon Airport
"The plane crashed on the runway when trying to land"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Coulthard survives plane crash
Plane crash
The plane landed in flames at Lyon-Satolas Airport
British Formula One driver David Coulthard has escaped death in a plane crash which killed both pilots.

The Scotsman, who won the British Grand Prix nine days ago in his McLaren-Mercedes, suffered slight injuries when the light aircraft came down in flames in France on Tuesday.

Coulthard, girlfriend Heidi Winchelski and his bodyguard were travelling in a private Learjet which crashed on landing at Lyon-Satolas airport.

They managed to get out of the plane themselves immediately after the crash and were picked up in an ambulance

Bernard Chaffange, Lyon Airport

The pilot and co-pilot were killed and three of the five passengers, including Coulthard, 29, were taken to Edouard-Herriot Hospital in Lyon.

The racing driver, who is only thought to have suffered minor injuries, was released a short time later.

It is believed Coulthard helped his girlfriend and bodyguard to escape from the wreckage.

The plane had taken off from Britain and was heading for Nice on the French Riviera when the Learjet pilot requested an emergency landing at Lyon-Satolas because of engine trouble.

Airport director Bernard Chaffange said the plane was on fire when it landed and the passengers escaped from a rear cabin window.

He said the pilot had radioed ahead and there was a fire team on stand-by at the runway.

He said: "They managed to escape the fire immediately. They escaped by the window.

David Coulthard
David Coulthard: Miraculous escape

"They managed to get out of the plane themselves immediately after the crash and were picked up in an ambulance and taken to hospital for a check-up.

"They were in as good a condition as they can be. I think they were very slightly injured," he added.

Mr Chaffange said the stricken plane was still by the side of the runway and an accident investigation was under way.

Coulthard, who is from Twynholm in Dumfries but now lives in Monaco, called his manager, Ian Cunningham, to confirm that he escaped serious injury.

McLaren-Mercedes spokeswoman, Paula Webb, said: "All the details we have at the moment are that there was an accident and there was a crash.

Lyon map
Racing driver was on his way to Nice

"All the passengers are fine. He is in hospital and is being checked out.

"He will go home later today. He was on his way home. It happened earlier today."

A spokesman for the Twynholm transport company owned by the driver's father Duncan said Mr Coulthard and other members of the family were on a nine-week holiday in Spain.

The sportsman proposed to fashion model Heidi over the New Year although the couple said they had no plans to get married until the current season is over.

Practice for the Spanish Grand Prix begins on Friday and early indications are that he will be on the starting grid.

Coulthard made his Formula One debut in Spain in 1994 for Williams after being promoted from test driver following the death of former world champion Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix earlier in the season.

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See also:

23 Apr 00 | Motorsport
Silverstone glory for Coulthard
23 Apr 00 | Motorsport
Mansell inspires Coulthard move
04 Apr 00 | Motorsport
Coulthard loses F1 appeal
02 May 00 | Motorsport
Coulthard: Scotland's fastest man
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