Tape reveals final words of speed ace Campbell

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The Independent Online
The final words of the legendary speed-record holder, Sir Donald Campbell, were heard yesterday for the first time by anyone other than the man who kept in radio contact with Campbell's speedboat, Bluebird.

Unplayed for more than 30 years, the final words of Campbell during his doomed record attempt on Coniston Water in the Lake District - "I have gone" - were replayed by radio operator, Paul Evans using special recording equipment at Darlington Technical College.

Mr Evans has treasured the recording since Campbell was killed. "It was very emotional," said Mr Evans. "As I listened I could picture everything that happened." At the time the BBC offered him pounds 1,000 for the tape, but he refused. He still refuses to sell, hoping a museum will step in.

The recording begins with Sir Donald's first run during which he reached 297mph, just 6mph short of the then record. He immediately decided on another run. On tape, Campbell is heard saying to Mr Evans: "Roger, Paul, I am starting return run now. Nose's up. Pitching a bit down here as I drive over my own wash."

Struggling to keep stable, Sir Donald describes Bluebird as skipping like a stone: "Tramping like mad, full power, tramping like hell here.

"I can't see much. The water's very dark ... green ..." Mr Evans believes Bluebird started its flip at that moment and the "green" Sir Donald mentions is the forest on the shore. When Sir Donald says: "I can't see anything" he is only seconds from death. "Hello. The bow's up. I have gone..."

The boat's wreckage was found but Campbell's body was never found.

Mr Evans, then a corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, who was seconded to the Campbell team for the record bid, spoke of one theory suspected at the time but not made public. He explained that when Bluebird's cockpit was examined, the harness which held Campbell in his seat was still fastened but there was no sign of him - apart from his boots.

The theory was that he had been projected backwards through a thin aluminium sheet - and into the turbine blades of the boat's jet engine.

"However, I don't think there will ever be any proof and it will remain one of those unsolved mysteries," Mr Evans said.