A row over the future of Donald Campbell’s restored Bluebird has erupted following the anniversary of his fatal crash 53 years ago.
Campbell, who broke eight world records on water and land in the 1950s and 60s, died at Coniston Water on 4 January 1967 while trying to break his own speed record in the vehicle. His daughter, Gina Campbell, has called for the jet-powered hydroplane to be returned to the scene of his death in the Lake District.
But Bill Smith, who restored Bluebird after recovering it in 2001, argued that a contract should be in place before it is returned.
Cambell’s family gifted the wreckage to the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, which oversaw the completion in 2010 of an £800,000 extension to house it. A dispute has arisen over who owns its new parts, with Smith arguing that ownership of the restored vessel should be shared.
Last year, Campbell told the BBC she had decided that the vehicle was “not ready to sit in a crusty old museum”. However, on Saturday she told a crowd gathered at the lake to commemorate the anniversary of her father’s death that Bluebird must be returned to the area.
“When Bluebird was handed over for restoration, I made a promise to the people of Coniston that the boat would be returned,” she said. “It is absolutely imperative that Bill Smith brings my father’s boat back here to Coniston as soon as possible.
Smith, who claims to own all the vehicle’s new parts, posted on Twitter that he would be instructing lawyers to “be standing by” over the disagreement.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “We’ve said the museum should have the boat for nine months of the year and we should be able to take it out for three months. We just need it written down in black and white, then we can crack on and everyone gets what they want.”
Trustees from the Ruskin Museum said in a statement that their obligations were to “preserve, protect and defend one of the most iconic boats in British history for the benefit of the public”.
They added: “What Bill Smith and his team of volunteers have achieved is remarkable. Our duty as an accredited museum is to ensure that Bluebird can be shown off to all who want to see her and learn about her exceptional story.”