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MAY 8, 2000

Coulthard's near-miss

DAVID COULTHARD emerged unscathed last week when the chartered executive jet in which he was travelling crashed at Satolas airport in Lyons, France. The pilots of the plane David Sunders and Dan Warley were killed in the crash but Coulthard, his fiancee Heidi Wichlinski, and his personal fitness trainer Andy Matthews were able to escape from the burning wreckage of the Lear 35 jet without injury. The details of the accident have not been made public as an official enquiry is underway but the plane was making an emergency landing because of engine problems. There have been suggestions that the aircraft was flying on one engine and that this stalled a few meters before the plane touched down. The left wing dipped and the plane turned onto its nose. The impact tore off the front section of the plane but the fuselage remained intact and came to a stop the right way up. A fire broke out but Matthews and Coulthard were able to get out of the gaping hole in front of them and helped Wichlinski to jump down. When they were clear of the wreckage, Coulthard returned to see if there was anything that could be done for the pilots but they had both been killed in the impact. The Satolas emergency services arrived within a minute of the crash.

Coulthard was on his way home to Monaco from Farnborough Airfield, close to McLaren's headquarters in Britain at lunchtime on Tuesday. He had chartered the plane from a different company than usual as the plane he usually charters was being used elsewhere. In the course of the flight the plane began to experience engine trouble and an emergency landing was requested at Lyons.

After the accident the three were taken to Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyons but after a check-up they were released and continued their journey to Monaco by car. Coulthard flew from Nice to Barcelona for the Spanish GP in a chartered executive jet. "I'd be very unlucky if it happened again," he said.

Although Coulthard was able to drive in Spain he was in increasing pain as the weekend went on. After the race Coulthard said that he had a cracked rib, torn muscles and severe bruising. McLaren boss Ron Dennis said that David had been checked over and he did not have any cracked ribs.