Hammond crash report finds safety failings

LONDON Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:11pm BST

Presenter Richard Hammond with wife Amanda arrives for British Academy Television Awards at the Palladium theatre in London May 20, 2007. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Presenter Richard Hammond with wife Amanda arrives for British Academy Television Awards at the Palladium theatre in London May 20, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - A investigation into a high-speed crash which nearly claimed the life of Top Gear's Richard Hammond said on Friday the BBC had failed to allow enough time for planning the filmed event.

The 37-year-old TV presenter suffered serious brain injuries and was in hospital for five weeks after a Vampire drag racer he was driving burst a tyre and span off the course at 288 mph at Elvington airfield near York in September 2006.

He has since recovered and returned to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also criticised the company that provided the jet powered modified drag racer, Primetime Landspeed Engineering (PTLE).

It said a risk assessment PTLE provided to the BBC made no allowance for training a driver such as Hammond who was unfamiliar with the superpowered vehicle.

In a report the HSE said: "The training available to Richard Hammond would have familiarised him with the working of the car but would not have allowed him to build up the skills which he could readily employ in the event of an emergency."

It said the BBC had failed to challenge the adequacy of PTLE's risk assessment.

Principal HSE Inspector Keith King said: "The investigation identified failings in the BBC's safety management systems relating to risk assessment and the procurement of services from others, and by PTLE in their risk assessment for the services provided to the BBC."

But he concluded that the failings viewed against the HSE's enforcement criteria did not merit prosecution.

The report said several safety features almost certainly saved Hammond's life, including the strong build of the Vampire racer, the design of the driver restraints, the crash helmet and rescue services on site at the airfield.

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