New Forest world record holder among dead in New Mexico helicopter crash

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TWO New Forest estates are mourning a world record-holder who was among five people killed in a helicopter crash in New Mexico.

Charles Burnett III and a group of friends were travelling to his ranch in the US state when their aircraft came down and burst into flames.

US investigators are trying to establish the cause of the crash, which occurred near the city of Raton on Wednesday.

Mr Burnett, 61, entered the record books in 2009 after his Hampshire-based attempt to set a new world record for the fastest steam-powered car ended in triumph.

His 25ft vehicle, nicknamed “the fastest kettle in the world”, achieved an average speed of 139mph at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Mr Burnett was in a long-term relationship with Andra Cobb, the only survivor of the crash. She managed to escape from the wreckage but her father, Paul Cobb, the helicopter’s co-pilot, was among those killed.

Other victims included leading Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett and his wife Heather.

British-born Mr Burnett was based in Texas but rented Newtown Park House near Lymington, and was an occasional visitor to the estate.

In 2007 he found himself at the centre of a furore following a mock battle held to celebrate his 51st birthday. A 1930s fighter aircraft repeatedly roared over Newtown Park House in a simulated attack.

More than 20 off-duty soldiers from Marchwood took part in the event, which also involved fake explosions and battle re-enactments. Locals said it was “just like the Blitz”.

Mr Burnett also had links with the nearby Beaulieu Estate. He was a nephew of the previous Lord Montagu, founder of the award-winning National Motor Museum.

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Newtown Park House is near a 75ft obelisk built in memory of Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale, who lived near Lymington and was the town’s MP. Mr Burnett gave a total of £20,000 to a group of campaigners who are restoring the monument.

One of the people involved in the project, Dr Don Mackenzie, said: “We are really grateful for his very generous donation, which enabled the project to get off the ground.”



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