British powerboat racer killed

A British powerboat racer has been killed in a high speed crash in west Africa.

William Nocker was travelling at speeds of 120 miles an hour when his boat flipped and "barrel rolled" on the water during the Gabon Grand Prix, witnesses said.

The 47-year-old was rushed to a military hospital in Gabon's capital city Libreville but doctors were unable to resuscitate him. His co-driver, Norwegian Kurt Olsen, was also badly hurt and remains in a critical condition in intensive care.

No other drivers were involved in the crash, which appeared to happen after Mr Nocker's boat hit two waves, witnesses said. Race promoters H20 Racing said contact had been made with Mr Nocker's father Bill and brother James following the accident.

Mr Nocker, who lived in Cheltenham, was returning to the sport following a five-year suspension after he was found guilty of tampering with a competitor's fuel supply.

A tribunal upheld charges of gross misconduct and unsportsmanlike behaviour against Mr Nocker and fellow racer Rob Lister after it was alleged water was poured into the tank of a rival boat during the Liverpool Powerboat Grand Prix in 2006.

Mr Nocker, who was originally from Tiverton, in Devon, was racing for the Welmax Offshore Racing team at the event in Gabon. The race, the second round of the Class 1 world offshore championship, was immediately stopped following the accident as safety teams rushed to attend to the injured crew at the scene.

As a mark of respect organisers cancelled the next day's second round before abandoning the event completely. The sport's governing body, Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM), has launched an investigation into the cause of the crash and plans to inspect the boat's wreckage.

Gabon's prime minister, Ndong Sima, joined racing teams as they returned to the crash site to pay tribute to Mr Nocker. They held a minute's silence and laid a wreath on the water while competitors and team members scattered flowers.

The Foreign Office said it was providing consular assistance to Mr Nocker's family.