Coulthard talks about crash

David Coulthard has been talking for the first time about his Lear jet crash in France. The McLaren driver praised the "utmost professionalism" of the British pilots David Saunders and Dan Worley killed when the hired Lear 35, hired from the chairman of Rangers Football Club, David Murray, cartwheeled while making an emergency landing at Lyon airport.

He said he, his fiancee Heidi Wichlinski and trainer Andy Matthew are co-operating with the French investigation into the smash. The Scot, who is second in the World Championship and won the last round, his home race in Britain, was speaking shortly after flying by private plane with his fiancee and physio to Barcelona for the fifth round of the series which starts with practice tomorrow (Friday).

"I want to express my heartfelt sympathies for the families of the two pilots. They behaved with the utmost professionalism throughout the incident," he said.

"I hired a Lear 35 which is an aircraft I am familiar with but not the aircraft or the crew I use on a regular basis.

"During the flight the co-pilot informed us we had an engine problem and would have to make an emergency landing in Lyon in 10 minutes time.

"We had time to prepare outselves for the landing in the brace position. On impact the plane wing tanks ruptured and there was a fire on the right hand side of the aircraft.

"When the plane finally came to rest, the front of the cockpit had broken free from the main fuselage. At this point we established the only way out was through the front of the aircraft.

"Andy led the way through the debris and as the plane was now three or four feet off the ground I followed him out so we could get Heidi down from the jet.

"Once we were all clear I returned to see if there was anything I could do for the pilots, but there was nothing I could do.

"In less than a minute the emergency services arrived and took over. I would like to express our thanks to the French emergency services and airport authorities for the professional and swift response."

Coulthard appealed to the media to leave him free to concentrate on this weekend's race.

"I hope you understand my professional obligations and allow me to concentrate on trying to win this Grand Prix and the World Championship," he said.

"We are helping, and will continue to help, the authorities with their inquiries into the incident.

"It would be in appropriate for me to make any further comment or speculate further as to the cause of the accident."

"Thank you for your understanding and lets hope we have a safe Grand Prix."

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