'His condition is critical,' Zdenka Liparova, a physician at a Prague clinic resuscitation unit, said. 'Mr Dubcek's spine is broken.' She added that his spinal cord did not seem to have been injured, but added: 'it cannot be established at the moment.'
A surgeon, Milan Rocen, later said Mr Dubcek, former leader of the Czechoslovak Communist party, was in heavy shock with severe chest and spinal injuries. Mr Dubcek, 70, and his driver were catapulted from the doors of their BMW as it plunged off a motorway in heavy rain some 60 miles south-east of Prague.
The spot was known as dangerous and a road sign imposes a 50 mph speed limit in rain. Police said the car may have been going to too fast and began aquaplaning. The driver denied he was speeding.