Colin McRae not a show off, crash inquiry told

Friends of former world rally champion Colin McRae described him as a responsible pilot and not a show off, a fatal accident inquiry into the helicopter crash which killed McRae and three others heard today.

Witness statements from those who knew driving ace McRae were read out as the inquiry into the tragedy on September 15 2007 began.

McRae, 39, died with his son Johnny, five, the boy's six-year-old school friend Ben Porcelli, and McRae's friend Graeme Duncan, 37, when the aircraft he was piloting crashed in the grounds of his home near Lanark.

On the first day of the inquiry at Lanark Sheriff Court, principal procurator fiscal depute Kate Meikle read out a statement given by Alexander Steele, who visited McRae at his home hours before the fatal flight.

Mr Steele, who had known McRae for around two years and had been flown by him twice, said: "I've seen him land many times.

"I've never seen Colin McRae fly irresponsibly at any time."

He said McRae and others were riding quad bikes and Mr Duncan was filming them when he went to the property.

After he left, McRae, the two boys and Mr Duncan went to see John Crawford in the Eurocopter Squirrel helicopter.

Mr Crawford said he was not aware of anything unusual when the craft took off after the visit.

The witness, who knew McRae for more than 10 years and who he said used his helicopter as others used cars, said: "As far as I know he got it inspected regularly.

"Colin was safety-minded at all times. He would document each flight.

"I've flown with him countless times."

He added: "He was not a show off."

Statements were also read out from Karen and Mark Porcelli, the parents of Ben, who said they did not give McRae permission to take their son in the helicopter.

They said they were family friends of McRae and his wife and their sons attended the same primary one class at school.

The boys would go to play at each other's homes, they said, and Mrs Porcelli said she dropped Ben off that afternoon.

She said: "There had been no discussion of Ben going in the helicopter that day or on any other occasion."

Mr Porcelli said: "At no point did Colin McRae seek permission to take Ben in the helicopter."

A number of booklets containing photographs of the crash site were lodged with the court and Sheriff Nikola Stewart was shown video footage taken from the air by Strathclyde Police.

The film showed aircraft wreckage and smoke rising from a wooded area.

The inquiry is expected to last for several months.