Cricketer Ben Hollioake killed in car crash

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The England cricketer Ben Hollioake was killed in a car crash on his way back from a family celebration as relatives followed behind, it emerged today.

The 24-year-old died at the scene and his girlfriend was seriously injured after the Porsche 924 they were travelling in careered off the road yesterday and smashed into a pylon near Perth, Western Australia.

Some of Hollioake's relatives, including his sister Eboni, were travelling in the car behind but were powerless to save him from the mangled wreckage, police said.

It is thought his brother Adam, also an England cricketer, was travelling in the car behind.

The all-rounder, once heralded as the new Ian Botham, had been at a family gathering shortly before the accident, friends said.

Girlfriend Janaya Scholten, 22, is seriously ill in the intensive care unit of The Royal Perth hospital with head and chest injuries.

Relatives were said to be "devastated" by the death, while former England cricket coach David Lloyd said "you would be hard-pressed to find a more popular lad anywhere in cricket".

Family friend Ian Waite, president of the South Perth cricket club, told Channel 9 News Perth: "This was a family celebration with the children and their partners and their mum and dad and the tragedy happened when they were coming home."

He said the group had got together because Hollioake and his brother were due to fly back to England shortly.

He said he was "privileged" to know the Hollioakes and passed his condolences on to the family and that of Ms Scholten.

The tragedy unfolded as Hollioake's England cricket colleagues battled against New Zealand in the second test match in Wellington with captain Nasser Hussain only learning of the death during the lunch break.

He and fellow batsmen Mark Ramprakash resumed their innings wearing black armbands but looked shaken, both losing their wickets within three overs of lunch.

A statement from Adam Hollioake, said: "The family is totally devastated at our tragic loss, and we would ask that members of the media respect our desire to mourn our loss in private."

Tributes to the Australian-born Surrey star were today being paid as police in Perth began to investigate why the car crashed after coming off an exit road on the Kwinana Freeway, South Perth.

Constable Raphael Perez, of the police operations centre in Perth, said: "The accident happened at 12.30 Western Standard Time.

"He was driving a black Porsche and failed to negotiate a bend and hit a pylon which rolled the vehicle.

"At the time there were relatives of Mr Hollioake following his vehicle. They were at the scene pretty much straight away...he was identified straight away.

His mother and father, Daria and John, who were also attending the celebration, are being given counselling and treatment for shock, he added.

The road had a 60mph speed limit and weather conditions were perfect, police said. There were no other vehicles involved in the crash and drink was not a factor in the tragedy.

But ABC Western Australia reported that high speed may have contributed to the crash. Inspector John Gillespie told the channel: "It does indicate speed, especially the impact so we'll be looking, focusing on that particular area."

Hollioake was one of English cricket's brightest young prospects, at one time being heralded as the new Ian Botham.

At 19, he became the youngest player to represent England since 1949 when he was called up for the Texaco Trophy one-day international squad in 1997.

He also made history by playing alongside his brother Adam - the first brothers to play an international match for England since Worcestershire's Peter and Dick Richardson in 1957.

Hollioake's 63 from 48 balls at The Oval as Australia were whitewashed 3-0 in the series made him a hero.

As Adam continued his flourishing career with Surrey, which he now captains, Ben briefly returned to Australia in 1994.

But in 1996 he was back in the UK, after being offered a contract with the same county.

After his early England success, his career went backwards in 1999-2000, even though Surrey won the County Championship in both seasons.

But he returned to form during the 2001 campaign making his first Championship century for the county and being named Man of the Match for his 73 in Surrey's B&H Cup Final victory over Gloucestershire.

He was recalled by England for the triangular one-day series against Australia and Pakistan and kept his place for the winter tours.

Hollioake played in the last one-day series in India and New Zealand before travelling to Australia for a holiday.

Lloyd, who first gave Hollioake his chance at international level, said: "This is absolutely devastating news for everyone who knew him and many of this England side who are playing against New Zealand at the moment would have grown up with him in junior cricket or played with him at Surrey.

"He gave you this impression of being laid back, but there was no-one who worked harder at their game than Ben.

"He never quite cemented his place in the England side, but there was no-one who worked harder to get there.

"I remember his debut at Lord's when he played so well and his parents were there to watch it and the pride in their faces while he played that innings - it's so very sad."