DAREDEVIL grandfather Keith Whittle is lucky to be alive after flipping his power boat at more than 130mph.
In an echo of the crash that claimed the life of Donald Campbell in 1967, the 57-year-old was attempting to break the class record in his Formula 2 racing powerboat Pepstar when it flipped twice into the air and smashed down into Coniston Water.
Keith, from Hayling Island, spent 20 seconds under water but miraculously managed to walk away with just bruised ribs – and a very worried wife.
He said: ‘My wife Debra wasn’t happy about me doing it in the first place so I’m just glad she wasn’t there when it happened.
‘I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what happened – I let my son do that.
‘But I’m okay though, a few bruised ribs but I’m fine.’
Keith and the crew from his company PowerTech Marine, based on Hayling, had spent a rollercoaster five days at the annual Coniston Powerboat Records Week, in the Lake District.
It is a five-mile lake where Donald Campbell died trying to break the world water speed record in Bluebird.
Keith and the team had broken two world records during the week only to have them voided on the final day, last Friday, because ofa technical issue.
With just over an hour to go before the competition close he rebuilt the engine, determined to break the S2000 class F2 powerboat record. He broke the S2000 at 129.28. Then on the F2 he said: ‘We did a south run of about 130mph and a return of 135mph which gave us an average of 132.18mph – a new world record.
‘But unfortunately, as we went through the final gate, the boat left the water and flipped.
‘You just go into survival mode really. You cover yourself up and wait for the impact and think: “This is going to cost a lot of money to put right”.
‘As soon as the accident’s finished you have to get out, get the canopy off.
‘I was under for about 20 seconds I suppose. But it seems longer at the time.
‘My head got stuck at the top but I wriggled about a bit and found my way out.’
Keith’s son Sam, 21, who is also a powerboat racer was at Coniston with him. He said: ‘I was the last to find out and I was in absolute bits.
‘It was such a massive relief to find out he was okay. I ran over to him, gave him a big hug and took him back to the cottage to get him warm and dry.’
Keith’s powerboat racing career began in the 1970s and he now maintains and repairs racing powerboats.