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Charles Burnett III, British-born speed king, dies in helicopter crash

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    Charles Burnett with his supercarImage copyright Getty Images

    A British-born former land-speed record-holder has died in a helicopter crash in the US state of New Mexico.

    Charles Burnett III, aged 61, was killed alongside a prominent Zimbabwean politician, Roy Bennett, Mr Bennett’s wife Heather, and co-pilots Jamie Coleman Dodd and Paul Cobb.

    Mr Cobb’s daughter Andra, who was Mr Burnett’s long-term partner, survived the crash with serious injuries.

    Mr Burnett, based in Houston, had set a number of records on land and water.

    His most notable achievement came in August 2009, when he was the driver of a British-built vehicle that achieved an average speed of 139.8mph to smash the world record for steam-powered cars.

    Before his successful attempt – which took place in California – the record had remained unbroken for 103 years – and Mr Burnett’s car was famously nicknamed the “fastest kettle in the world”.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Roy Bennett, who has opposed former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, also died in the crash

    Giving details of the fatal helicopter crash, New Mexico police said they had launched a frantic search when Ms Cobb called the emergency number but could not give her location.

    They confirmed in a statement that the helicopter’s wreckage was found burning on a rancher’s property east of the city of Raton.

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