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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Divers salvage the Bluebird
Wreck of the Bluebird
The tail fin was the first section to break the waters
Divers have raised the wreck of Donald Campbell's boat Bluebird from the bottom of Coniston Water in Cumbria.

The boat had lain there for 34 years, since the accident in which Campbell was killed while trying to break the world water speed record.

The craft was winched to the surface after a three-hour operation to tow it to the lakeside from its resting place, 150ft below the surface of the lake.

Click here to see the picture of Campbell's Bluebird crashing.

The quest to raise the boat was led by diver Bill Smith, who paid tribute to a "fantastic" team.

"I can't really believe I've done this yet," Smith told the BBC.

"We just had to do it, wanted to lift the wreck and we've done it, and I'm pleased to say we've done it with the dignity and respect that it deserved."

Campbell's widow Tonia Bern-Campbell
Tonia Bern-Campbell, Campbell's widow, saw the boat raised

A crowd of more than 50 villagers gathered at the shore and saw the tail of Bluebird, emblazoned with a Union Jack, float to the surface aided by four orange air bags.

Campbell's widow Tonia Bern-Campbell flew from her home in America to be at the lakeside to witness the occasion. Other friends and family are with her.

Smith said he was glad that they had reached the boat as there was always the risk that less scrupulous souvenir hunters could get there first.

"You can see now she's in a remarkable state of preservation and she'll not rot away to nothing now, she can be kept this way," said Smith, who will also lead the conservation team.

Body never found

"She'll be thoroughly dried, sprayed with inhibiting wax to keep off the oxygen, wrapped and put away in polythene until she can be found a permanent home."

Tony Robinson, who at the age of 22 was a lake marshal when Bluebird crashed and had to search for Campbell's body, was comforted by a friend as he stood on the jetty alongside the adventurer's widow.

Union Jack on tail fin of the Bluebird
A Union Jack is still emblazoned on Bluebird's tail fin
The legendary figure was trying to break his own water speed record of 276mph on 4 January, 1967, when the boat vaulted from the lake's surface and somersaulted repeatedly before crashing, killing him instantly.

His body was never found and there are no remains in the wreckage.

The Bluebird was discovered by enthusiasts late last year after a four-year hunt and has been filmed by a BBC crew.

There were reported divides among Campbell's family over whether it should be raised from its resting place. Some wanted it left as a memorial to him.

Racing dynasty

David Watt, 67, who has lived in Coniston all his life and followed Campbell's trips out on the lake, spoke of the emotion of seeing Bluebird emerge from the water.

"It is very emotional and what we have all got to remember was the magic seeing Bluebird out on the lake.

"It was a magical time to watch her and to hear the roar of the engine echoing around the hills."

Donald Campbell
Donald Campbell's body was never found
The future of the Bluebird wreckage is not yet known.

The curator of Coniston's Ruskin Museum, Vicky Slowe, said staff at the museum, which has an exhibition dedicated to Campbell, hoped the craft would be eventually be displayed there.

"The feeling is that Coniston has protected Bluebird all these years and would like to continue protecting it and the Campbell legend," she said.

Campbell was only 46 when he died and achieved legendary status in his own lifetime.

He came from a dynasty of world speed record breakers. His father Sir Malcolm Campbell set the land speed record in 1935.

Last year, Sir Malcolm's grandson and Donald's nephew Don Wales smashed the British land-speed record for an electrically-powered car.

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