Hamster and BBC cleared of crash wrongdoing

Richard Hammond and the BBC are to be cleared of any wrongdoing over the spectacular crash in which the TV presenter almost died.

An inquiry by the Health and Safety Executive will rule out driver error as well as exonerating the makers of the Top Gear motoring programme, according to the Evening Standard.

The corporation had faced the threat of prosecution and unlimited fines for staging the stunt in which Hammond crashed a jet-powered car while driving at almost 300 mph on an airfield.

The accident will be broadcast for the first time when a new series of Top Gear begins on 28 January, with Hammond co-presenting.

The Executive has concluded that the crash in September was caused by a blow-out of the front right tyre on the Vampire car, causing Hammond to lose control. He was critically injured but made a rapid recovery.

An Executive spokesman said: "One of the front tyres delaminated - the layers came apart - and that is the tyre we are concentrating on. The question is were the tyres fit for purpose...and were they maintained properly? Were they up for the job?”

The investigators, who interviewed Hammond late last year, concluded that his lack of experience driving a jet car cannot be blamed for the crash.

Hammond, 37, wrote in Top Gear magazine: "Just as I was approaching the point at which I was due to pull the parachute and stop, a tyre blew up."

The investigators were able to piece together what went wrong with the help of video footage of the 288mph crash at Elvington airfield in north Yorkshire.

The tyres from the Vampire, holder of the British land speed record, have been sent to the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire, for examination. The test results will be used to support any decision that a prosecution should be brought.

A BBC spokesman said it would be "inappropriate" to comment