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The BBC's Jon Sopel
"As the plane touched down it bounced violently"
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Bernard Chaffange, director Lyon Airport
"The plane crashed on the runway when trying to land"
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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK
Coulthard survives plane crash
French police examine the wreckage at Lyon-Satolas Airport
French police examine the wreckage at Lyon-Satolas Airport
British Formula One driver David Coulthard has escaped death in a plane crash which killed both pilots.

The Scotsman suffered slight injuries when the light aircraft came down in flames in France on Tuesday. Pilots David Saunders and Dan Worley were killed.

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

Rescue teams said Coulthard helped others to escape from the aircraft, which was almost torn in two by the impact. He then called the emergency services on his mobile phone.

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

Bernard Chaffange, Lyon Airport

Coulthard and his companions were taken to Edouard-Herriot Hospital in Lyon but were released a short time later.

The racing driver said: "Obviously I'm relieved that Heidi, Andy and myself are unhurt but I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the families of the two pilots.

"It is inappropriate for me to go into the details of the accident, but we were very lucky to walk away."

The Learjet, belonging to David Murray, the chairman of Rangers Football Club, had taken off from Farnborough air field in England and was heading for Nice on the French Riviera when the pilot requested an emergency landing at Lyon-Satolas because of engine trouble.

David Coulthard
David Coulthard: Miraculous escape
Airport director Bernard Chaffange said the plane was on fire when it landed and the passengers escaped from a rear cabin window as a fire team on stand-by raced across the runway.

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

"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 a full accident investigation was under way.

Lyon map
Racing driver was on his way to Nice

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

A spokesman for the Twynholm transport company owned by the driver's father Duncan said the family was on a nine-week holiday in Spain.

The racing star, who won the British Grand Prix nine days ago, 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:

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