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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Hammond 'has taken first steps'
Richard and Amanda Hammond
Mrs Hammond has been at her husband's bedside since the crash.
Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond is continuing to recover in hospital, with friend Jeremy Clarkson saying the crash victim has taken his first steps.

The 36-year-old has now been moved out of the high dependency unit and onto a general ward, his family said.

It comes after his wife said the family had been "overwhelmed" with messages of support from around the world.

Mr Hammond suffered a "significant" brain injury when he crashed in a jet-powered car on Wednesday.

The accident is being investigated by the BBC, the police and the Health and Safety Executive.

The 36-year-old presenter's condition is said by doctors to be "stable".

A hospital spokesman said on Saturday Mr Hammond was continuing "to make good progress".

'Spoken and smiled'

Mr Hammond's wife Amanda, known as Mindy, said she has had messages from around the world since his accident during filming near York.

Scene of Richard Hammond's crash at Elvington airfield

His co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson, a Sun columnist, said in the paper the father-of-two got to his feet and walked "shakily" to the toilet during the early hours of Friday - just 30 hours after the crash.

Mrs Hammond told the Daily Mirror: "He's starting to look like Richard again. He's tough as hell and on his way back.

"He's spoken and smiled. It's early days and what has happened hasn't really sunk in for him.

"The whole family is overwhelmed by everyone's support. There have been so many flowers, cards and e-mails from around the world.

"To know that so many people love him is astounding. We want to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers."

Vampire
  • Estimated top speed: 370mph
  • Acceleration: 0 to 272mph in 6 seconds
  • Engine: Rolls Royce Orpheus
  • Fuel economy: 7-10 gallons per mile
  • Weight: 2,200 lbs (998kg)
  • Length: 30 feet (9.14m)

  • Mr Hammond's brother Nick told reporters his brother had improved since he saw him earlier in the week.

    "He's making good progress. We are very happy," he said.

    Fellow Top Gear presenter James May said on Friday he believed the injured presenter was "perfectly intact" after the pair had had a conversation at his hospital bedside.

    "I'm not a doctor but I am his mate and I believe that deep inside the Hammond I know is perfectly intact," he said.

    The presenter had been driving a jet-powered dragster similar to the Vampire used by Colin Fallows to set the British land speed record of 300.3 mph.

    Mr Hammond, from Cheltenham, Glos, had to be cut free after the car "veered off to the right" and its parachutes opened during a drive at Elvington airfield.

    Primetime Land Speed Engineering, which supplied the car and a support team for the event, said the vehicle "had been prepared and was being operated to the highest of standards".

    HAVE YOUR SAY
    Can't wait to see Richard back on the telly - Top Gear just wouldn't be the same without him
    Lisa, Halstead, Essex

    The BBC said in a statement that it had started an investigation into the accident and promised full co-operation with the HSE.

    A BBC spokeswoman also confirmed the final part of the Best of Top Gear, due to be screened on 1 October, had been postponed indefinitely.

    A statement from the BBC said: "We would like to express our thanks to the 40,000 people who have sent goodwill messages about Richard.

    "These will all be passed on to him, and the Top Gear team and presenters are very grateful indeed for this exceptional and heartfealt response from viewers, which will be a terrific boost to Richard for his recovery.

    "It had been intended that the new series of Top Gear would begin on 8 October. Given the circumstances, it's still too early to say when the series will return. Jeremy, James and the Top Gear team have been completely focussed on Richard and all that the wonderful staff of the Leeds General Infirmary have done for him.

    "The priority for now must be ensuring Richard makes a full recovery, but we would not think of finalising plans for the next series without discussing it with everyone involved. When it is suitable, the team will do this and we will announce a new transmission date."

    Meanwhile, a group of motoring enthusiasts has raised more than 56,000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity - which airlifted Mr Hammond to hospital - after setting up a web page for contributions.


    VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
    See fans arriving in fast cars to support Hammond



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