BBC Presenter Critically Injured in Car Crash

BBC television personality Richard Hammond was hospitalized in serious condition after crashing a jet-powered car while filming his television show.

Hammond, the host of the popular British automotive program "Top Gear," suffered a serious brain injury when he crashed a dragster at a former Royal Air Force base in northern England. Witnesses said he had driven the dragster for several runs, some at speeds near 300 mph, when the car veered off the track. The car tore through the nearby grass and flipped over before it came to a stop right side up.

According to those at the scene, rescuers had to cut Hammond out of the car. Doug Ogden, one of the rescuers, told the BBC that Hammond had regained consciousness and was talking before he was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary hospital.

A spokesman for Leeds General Infirmary told ABC News that the brain injury "is still giving cause for concern, as it is still early after the injury. However, we are reasonably optimistic that he will make a good recovery."

Dr. John Wilson, a neurosurgeon at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said that the injuries likely came from the rapid deceleration of the car.

"It's a similar situation to Dale Earnhardt, when his car crashed head on into a wall," Wilson said, referring to the 2001 NASCAR accident that killed the racecar driver. "Rapid deceleration causes the brain to basically shift inside the skull, and it can impact on the skull."

Wilson also noted that the reports of Hammond's consciousness immediately after the accident meant that his injury was "potentially reversible."

It's believed that Hammond may have been trying to break the land speed record for the show when the accident happened. The car he was driving was similar to the Vampire dragster, which previously broke the land speed record. However, no officials were present at the base to record the attempts.

Hammond's co-hosts on the show, Jeremy Clarkson and James May, spent the day at the hospital with Hammond's family.

"I would just like to say how heartened Richard will be when I tell him just how many motorists and truck drivers on my way here wound down their windows to say they were rooting for him," Clarkson said in a written statement. "Both James and I are looking forward to getting [Hammond] back."

Even though Hammond's crash comes just three weeks after the death of Steve Irwin, and both incidents involved daredevil stunts being filmed for television, such accidents are relatively rare, said Ray Allger at the Health and Safety Executive, an organization that deals with workplace-related safety issues and is working with the North Yorkshire police to investigate the crash.

Sam Turney, spokesman for the North Yorkshire police, said the investigation is likely to take several weeks.

"It was a very unusual crash," he added, noting that there would likely be a thorough investigation of the safety procedures that took place. Turney said he believed a private ambulance and fire brigade had been on the scene at the time of the crash.

The investigation is looking into how the activity was planned. Reports state that Hammond had only one day of training in the car with the current British land speed record holder, Colin Fallows.