Thursday, September 21, 2006

Top Gear presenter hurt in crash

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond is "seriously ill" in hospital after being involved in a high-speed crash while filming the motoring show. Hammond, 36, was airlifted to the neurological unit at Leeds General Infirmary after the "dragster-style car" he was driving crashed at Elvington airfield, near York. Reports claim that the presenter had been filming an attempt to break the British land speed record when the car, capable of reaching speeds of up to 300mph, crashed. A spokesman for Leeds General Infirmary said that he was in a "stable" condition following the accident. A former firefighter, who was providing emergency cover at the airfield in case of an accident, said that the crash happened as Mr Hammond completed a final run before the Top Gear crew prepared to finish filming for the day. Dave Ogden, who runs private firm Event Fire Services and witnessed the crash, described what had happened to the high-powered car the presenter of the BBC show was driving. "They had just done one more run and were planning to finish when it veered off to the right," he said. "One of the parachutes had deployed but it went on to the grass and spun over and over before coming to a rest about 100 yards from us." Mr Ogden said that he felt Hammond for a pulse and heard him breathing before emergency crews worked to turn the upturned vehicle over and cut the presenter free. Former Top Gear presenter Quentin Wilson described Hammond's accident as a "huge, huge tragedy". "He is a wonderful, unique and distinctive Top Gear presenter," added Wilson. "He has brought an awful lot to the programme and his indefatigable energy, the fact that he tries absolutely anything once, may have been the reason that he has overstepped the mark a bit," he added.