BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
TV host seriously hurt in crash
Richard Hammond
The presenter is being treated at Leeds General Infirmary
Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond remains seriously ill in hospital after a crash in a jet-powered car while filming for the BBC programme.

The 36-year-old was taken by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary's neurological unit on Wednesday.

A hospital spokesman said: "He has seen some improvement overnight, but remains in a serious but stable condition."

Mr Hammond had been in a dragster-style car capable of reaching speeds of about 300mph at Elvington airfield near York.

The hospital said his wife was at his bedside and, at the request of his family, no more information would be released.

The crash will be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive and the BBC.

The BBC said in a statement: "We are looking into all the factors of this accident and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage until we know the full situation."

He has brought an awful lot to the programme
Quentin Willson, former Top Gear presenter

The dragster car he was driving was believed to have been travelling at about 300mph when it crashed.

Motoring expert Adam Rayner, of Fast Car magazine, said that at those speeds the driver would experience forces similar to those endured by fighter pilots.

"These cars accelerate at 6G - the force is breathtaking and stopping is a real difficulty," he said.

Former firefighter Dave Ogden, who runs private firm Event Fire Services, was one of the first people at the scene of the crash.

He said: "We were down there with Top Gear who were filming him trying to break the British land speed record.

"On the previous run, the car had just gone over 300mph but I am not sure if it had broken the record.

Scene of Richard Hammond crash
The scene at the former RAF airfield where the crash happened

"They had just done one more run and were planning to finish when it veered off to the right.

"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."

He said his crew and an ambulance that was already on the airfield rushed over and found the car upside down and "dug in" to the grass.

Mr Ogden said he felt for a pulse and heard Mr Hammond breathing before the emergency crews worked together to turn the car the right way up and then cut him free.

He added: "He was regaining consciousness at that point and said he had some lower back pain. But he was drifting in and out of consciousness a little bit."

Former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson said the presenter was "irreplaceable".

'International personality'

He said: "He is a wonderful, unique and distinctive Top Gear presenter.

"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 has turned Top Gear into a gang show with Jeremy and James and the three of them have wowed audiences all over the world and he is an international personality."

Mr Willson added: "There is no pressure from the BBC or the producer to take undue risks.

"But that pressure is in your own head. You want to do an item on the programme which is mindblowing."

The presenter, who works on Top Gear with fellow hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May, grew up in Solihull, was educated in Yorkshire and lives near Cheltenham with his wife and children.

In addition to presenting Top Gear for the BBC, he is also presenting the current series of Brainiac on Sky One.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Details of the crash involving Richard Hammond



SEE ALSO
Profile: Richard Hammond
20 Sep 06 |  Entertainment

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites




PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific