The BBC reports that rally champion Donald Milne, who also mentored rally legend Colin McRae, died after his private airplane collided with a fire-service helicopter in Spain on Saturday. Milne was 65 years old.
Milne was in a small Bucker biplane when he and a helicopter owned by the state crashed at the Mutxamel airport, according to the Mirror. He went to the hospital after the crash, where the Mirror reports he died several hours later.
It is a tragic and also deeply unusual death, especially when you consider his protege McRae was also killed in 2007 in a helicopter crash. That crash claimed the lives of McRae, his friend, and their respective young sons.
According to the BBC, investigators looking into Milne’s crash “concluded it was a tragic accident.” The story didn’t elaborate. From the BBC:
The ex-businessman’s eldest son, Quintin, told BBC Scotland he had recently told his father that he should be taking things more easily at his age after he started getting into acrobatics.
Mr Milne responded: “I’d rather go in my beloved aeroplane than having you spoon-feed me later on.”
Accounts of the crash seem to differ, with the Mirror reporting the helicopter was landing after returning from a forest fire and the BBC reporting that Milne’s son said it “took off underneath him.” According to the Mirror, the helicopter was about 10 meters off the ground when its tail rotor hit Milne’s plane.
Milne’s son told the BBC the communication tower wasn’t in operation because the airfield is generally quiet and it was around New Year’s Eve, and Milne’s friend John Fife told the Mirror there’s a concern the helicopter was unaware of protocols. Fife did not say who expressed that concern or what it stemmed from.
From the BBC’s account of the crash, which came from Milne’s son:
His son Quintin said: “My dad was on final approach to land and was approximately 100ft from the runway.
“He had right of way and was committed to land.
“The helicopter took off underneath him and made contact with his aircraft. ...
“It was a tragic turn of events that could have been avoided.”
Milne’s son told the BBC his father was “a larger than life character who lived life to the full,” and that he “was loved by so many people and he helped so many people.”
One of the people he helped was McRae, who went on to become Britain’s first World Rally Champion in 1995 and a rally legend. The BBC reports that Milne lent McRae cars early in his career, and that he helped McRae win the Scottish Rally Championship in 1988.
Fife told the Mirror Milne worked hard at everything he did, and that he was “a rally-holic then an aircraft-holic.” Fife said Milne loved the freedom of flying, because “that’s the way the man was wired.”