The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced today that it has concluded its investigation into television presenter Richard Hammond’s high-speed crash last September. The investigation identifies omissions by two of the parties involved, but finds no grounds for prosecution.
The crash occurred on 20 September 2006 while Mr Hammond was driving the Vampire, a jet powered modified drag racer at Elvington airfield, near York, during filming for BBC TV’s Top Gear programme. The car was owned by Northants-based Primetime Landspeed Engineering (PTLE), who also provided Mr Hammond’s training.
The immediate cause of the accident was a catastrophic failure of the Vampire’s front offside tyre at 288 mph on the seventh high-speed run of the day. Examination of this tyre and video footage showed that the tyre was damaged, as a result of an object (or objects) having entered the sidewall immediately adjacent to the edge of the tread, during the latter part of the previous run. A blister was visible in the tyre’s outer side but this appears to have subsided and was not apparent immediately before the final run commenced.
HSE’s investigation team pursued three lines of enquiry: the planning and preparation undertaken by the BBC and PTLE, the training given to Richard Hammond, and a technical examination of the vehicle and its tyres. HSE acknowledges the assistance provided by the BBC and PTLE during this investigation, and the support provided by North Yorkshire Police.
The investigation used evidence from the BBC’s filming of the day, up to and including the accident, and telemetry data recorded as part of the filming. Specialist evidence was obtained from within HSE on ergonomic issues, from the Transport Research Laboratory Ltd on the tyres, and from North Yorkshire Police on the vehicle and crash scene.
Principal Inspector Keith King, who led HSE team, said: "The investigation identified several safety features, which in combination, almost certainly saved Mr Hammond’s life. These included: the structural integrity of the Vampire, which survived the crash intact; the design of the driver restraint arrangements; the crash helmet selected and the emergency rescue services on site at the airfield. Other precautions adopted included the decision not to deploy camera crews along the margins of the runway.
"The investigation also 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 they provided to the BBC at Elvington. These failings and other recommendations are being pursued with the two parties involved. However, when viewed against HSE’s enforcement criteria, none of these failings merit prosecution."
The investigation has identified wider issues for the broadcast industry about the preparation and training of presenters for such activities. HSE is passing these findings on to the Joint Advisory Committee for Entertainment.
A detailed summary of the investigation is available on HSE’s website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/releases/richardhammond.pdf