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

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Coulthard back in the race
French police examine the wreckage at Lyon-Satolas Airport
French police examine the wreckage at Lyon-Satolas Airport
British Formula One driver David Coulthard is expected to drive in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix - despite surviving a horrific plane crash.

The 29-year-old Scotsman suffered slight injuries when the jet he was travelling in came down in flames at Lyons, France, on Tuesday.

David Coulthard
David Coulthard: Miraculous escape
The winner of last week's British Grand Prix managed to drag his 26-year-old fiancee Heidi Wichlinski and personal fitness trainer Andy Matthews to safety through a window of the hired Learjet 35.

However British pilot David Saunders, 46, who was married with young children, and co-pilot Dan Worley, a former RAF pilot in his 30s, died instantly.

Coulthard has expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the dead men.

He reportedly told emergency crews: "I should be dead. I can't believe we're walking out of this alive.

"I really thought I was going to die. I have bashed ribs and Heidi and Andrew have cuts and bruises. It's a miracle - we can't believe we survived."

A McLaren spokeswoman said the Scot was in the south of France preparing for Sunday's race before travelling to the circuit in Barcelona.

Coulthard, 29, will be back in his car as early as Friday for practice laps followed by qualifying runs on Saturday.

"David is trying to take stock of what has happened and will be getting ready for the weekend," the spokeswoman said.

"He will be going to Barcelona and he will be in the Spanish Grand Prix. He is a professional racing driver and is very focused trying to win this race."

Mental strength

Former McLaren driver John Watson said that Coulthard would cope well with the shock of the crash.

He said: "David will be in fine shape, I think that racing drivers in particular are capable of dealing with great mental and physical stresses and David is coming off the back of a great Grand Prix win at Silverstone 10 days ago.

"He will be thinking very positively about this weekend, and in fact it will be a way for him to put behind him the awful experiences he, his fiancee, his trainer and tragically the two pilots went through in France.

"So I have got no real doubts about David's ability, mentally, physically to compete in Spain this weekend."

Engine trouble

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 Airport because of engine trouble.

David Antrobus, managing director of the plane's operators Northern Executive Aviation said: "The important thing in a tragedy at this time is to establish the cause and we will give every possible assistance that we can to an investigation."

Heidi Wincheslki
Heidi Wichlinski: Helped to safety
The 2.5m jet was built in 1988, had flown only 4,500 hours and had previously held an immaculate safety record.

Two representatives from the British Air Accident Investigation Branch flew to Lyon to assist their French counterparts into the cause of the crash.

Coulthard's victory at Silverstone nine days ago - the seventh win of his Formula One career - took him into second place in the drivers' championship but still 20 points behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.

The Scot, who is from Twynholm, near Dumfries but now lives in Monaco, proposed to fashion model Heidi over the New Year.

The couple have said they have no plans to get married until the current season is over.

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See also:

03 May 00 | UK
In the wake of disaster
03 May 00 | Scotland
Coulthard survives plane crash
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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