THE father of Colin McRae, the former world rally champion who was killed in a helicopter crash, insisted yesterday that his son was not to blame for the tragedy in which three others died.
Jimmy McRae, 64, described his son as a "perfect pilot" and said he believed the accident was caused by a problem with the aircraft.
Colin, 39, his son Johnny, five, and his six-year-old best friend Ben Porcelli, and McRae's old schoolfriend Graeme Duncan, 37, all died when the Squirrel helicopter hit the ground and burst into flames in woodland near McRae's home in Lanark at about 4pm on Saturday.
The 500,000 aircraft was almost destroyed in the crash, which was followed by an intense fire.
Jimmy McRae, himself five times British rally champion, said yesterday he believed his son had realised there was a fault with the helicopter before it crash landed.
He said: "It is up to the accident investigators, but I know that from the line [Colin] was coming from he has had a problem [with the helicopter].
"He would normally be half a mile or a mile up the top of the valley coming in from that direction. As far as I can see, he has had a problem further back and has been trying to clear the trees to get to the field.
"He had a passion for helicopters, as he did for driving rally cars. As far as I am concerned, he was a perfect pilot."
Mr McRae added: "It is very ironic when you consider the dangerous life that Colin did have in his career as a rally driver to lose his life 50 yards from the front door of his house. Not only that, he had our grandson Johnny with him and [Johnny's] best pal, Ben. It is almost unbelievable.
"Yesterday, we put up a condolence page on his website and we looked at it just now and there's 25,000 hits - that's how popular he was.
"He was world champion. It's so sad we've lost Johnny because even at an early age he has shown signs of wanting to do the same as what I and his dad did."
The firm which produced the computer game based on Colin McRae's rally driving yesterday paid tribute to his "inspirational" talent.
In a statement, the Warwickshire-based Codemasters said: "The loss of Colin McRae is deeply distressing. That it involved his son and another so young makes it even more tragic.
"Our thoughts are with his family and those closest to him, and we share in their pain."
HOW INVESTIGATORS WILL ESTABLISH CAUSE
TWO air-accident investigators will today continue work at the site of the tragedy in a bid to establish what went wrong.
Strathclyde Police said it would be assisting the pair - one engineer and one "reporter", from the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB), which probes crashes on behalf of the Department for Transport.
The crash site will remain off limits while the examination continues. The bodies of the victims were removed from the scene of the wreckage at the weekend. Post-mortem examinations will be carried out over the next few days.
Forensic clues from the wreckage will be the most useful part of the investigation as the helicopter is unlikely to have been fitted with any kind of data recorder, and Colin McRae, pictured left, was not in contact with air traffic controllers for his short journey.
Investigators will first develop an accurate map and photographs of where the 'copter landed before deciding whether to take wreckage to the AAIB headquarters in Farnborough.
David Gleave, an aviation safety analyst, said: "Analysis of where the mechanical parts landed will be crucial in this investigation, because it will help determine if there was some kind of mechanical failure."