Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Information plea over driver death

Maria De Villota was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio
Maria De Villota was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio

Any possible links between the death of female racing driver Maria de Villota and injuries she suffered in an accident last year would be examined, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokeswoman has said.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has been found dead in a hotel room in Seville. Madrid police said it was being treated as a "natural death".

De Villota was test driving for the Marussia team at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, on July 3 last year when she was involved in a freak accident in which her car, which was travelling at up to 40mph, ran into a stationary service vehicle.

She lost her right eye as a result and required multiple operations to repair the damage to her face and skull.

An HSE spokeswoman said an investigation launched immediately after the accident was continuing and any post-mortem findings and other developments following her death would be considered.

She added: "We don't know if there is a link between her injuries and her subsequent death but we would expect to be kept informed of any new evidence."

It is understood De Villota was on a tour promoting her autobiography - Life Is A Gift - when she was discovered dead.

A spokeswoman for Madrid police said: "We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything."

Despite spending a month in hospital following the Duxford Aerodrome incident, De Villota rebuilt her life in what was seen by many as a miracle recovery.

The accident happened during straight-line testing and eye witnesses reported seeing her car suddenly accelerate.

Marussia later said it had carried out an internal investigation and was satisfied that the car was not at fault.

Although she lost her right eye, she was said to have made a full recovery from injuries to her face and skull.

De Villota, who became part of the FIA's Women and Motorsport Commission, was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio and competed in F3, GTs, touring cars and the Superleague Formula before signing for Marussia in March 2012.

A statement on De Villota's Facebook page, signed by her family, read: "Dear friends: Maria has left us.

"She had to go to heaven like all angels. We are thankful to God for the extra year and a half that he left her with us."

Williams development driver Susie Wolff, who described De Villota as an inspiration, added her voice to the tributes.

"We both agreed her accident should never have happened. It was a stupid, freak accident," she added.

"Out of the paddock and out of the motorsport bubble, she was an incredible character, she was a fighter.

"She had such a spirit for life. What she came through was a testament to her strength of character and her positive outlook on life."

FIA president Jean Todt described De Villota as "a fantastic driver, a leading light for women in motor sport and a tireless campaigner for road safety".

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