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Record-breaking hydroplane to run again after fatal 1960s crash

The record-breaking Bluebird K7, which crashed on the Lake District’s Coniston Water in 1967, killing its pilot, could soon run again on the iconic lake.

The hydroplane flipped into the air and disintegrated as Donald Campbell attempted to break the 300mph barrier and set a new world water speed record 57 years ago.

Thousands of people turned out at the weekend to welcome Bluebird back to the Lake District where it will go on permanent display at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston.

The wreckage, along with Mr Campbell’s body, was recovered in 2001. The craft has undergone a full restoration by volunteers, but a lengthy legal dispute had left its future uncertain.

Its new home is a short distance from Coniston Churchyard, where Mr Campbell is buried.

Bluebird K7 in the Bluebird wing at the Ruskin Museum. Pic: Asadour Guzelian
Image: Bluebird K7 in its new home at the Bluebird wing in the Ruskin Museum. Pic: Asadour Guzelian
File photo dated 25/9/1958 of Donald Campbell in the cockpit of his jet-powered hydroplane 'Bluebird' at Lake Coniston Issue date: Sunday March 10, 2024. Pic: PA Wire
Image: Donald Campbell in the cockpit of his jet-powered hydroplane Bluebird in 1958. Pic: PA Wire

His daughter Gina Campbell said: “At last, I shall be able to fulfil my promise, made to Coniston way back in 2001, that Bluebird would return to the village and the people that my father held so dear to him.”

Bluebird returned to the water in 2018, reaching 150mph on a lake in Scotland and the Ruskin Museum today confirmed plans for it to run on Coniston Water again.

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Jeff Carroll, vice chairman of trustees of the museum, told Sky News that bringing the vessel to the wing, opened in 2010 and named Bluebird in its honour, was like putting “the diamond back in the ring.”

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Bluebird K7 surrounded by crowds at Coniston. Pic: Asadour Guzelian
Image: Crowds gathered to see the hydroplane making its homecoming journey. Pic: Asadour Guzelian

A tearful Gina Campbell had been among the crowds, along with a piper and shire horse, that welcomed Bluebird back to Coniston in emotional scenes after its 147-mile journey from where it was restored in North Shields.

Police stepped in to stop traffic close to the M6 after well-wishers swarmed around the truck carrying the vessel.

Pilot Campbell, who was regarded as an adopted son by the people of Coniston, broke eight world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s.

Donald Campbell's hydroplane Bluebird on Coniston Water, Lancashire on May 12, 1959. Pic: AP Photo
Image: Campbell piloting the hydroplane on Coniston in 1959. Pic: AP Photo

He was the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who himself held speed records, and set himself the target of pushing the record past 300mph.

In the final moments of Bluebird’s journey, recordings picked up Mr Campbell’s voice saying “She’s going” before the vessel became airborne and crashed back into the water.

Tracy Hodgson, director of the Ruskin Museum, told Sky News: “A lot of older people here remember him so it’s not just a boat, it’s the fact that they were around when he died. It’s the whole story. It’s not just K7, it’s Donald.

“We’ve been waiting so long, but she’s back now.”

Sky News Source