Frankie Dettori feared ‘I’m dead’ before escaping plane crash and explosion

Frankie Dettori has opened up on the moment he was pulled from the burning wreckage of a plane by a fellow jockey after it crashed 20 years ago.

The Italian rider was on board the rented Piper Seneca plane with fellow jockey Ray Cochrane in June 2000 when it crashed and burst into flames on take off at Newmarket.

Cochrane was hailed as a hero after pulling Dettori from the wreckage and trying, ultimately in vain, to also save pilot Patrick Mackey.

He suffered burns which eventually led to his retirement from racing, but it was worth it as his quick thinking and bravery saved Dettori's life.

The Italian was in tears as he recalled the events of that day.

"I thought, 'I'm dead'," he told The Sun. "We'd just had our first son Leo and I was thinking, 'No! Why take me now?'.

"I could see the two engines on fire, Patrick with his head on the dashboard but I couldn't focus. Ray kicks me up the backside and drags me out.

"He was going mad, beating the ground, kicking, screaming — he felt helpless he couldn't save the pilot. Then, boom! The whole plane exploded.

"To see somebody die in front of your eyes… it’s hard. I shouldn't be here. I have to thank Ray. When somebody saves your life you have to be grateful."

Dettori added the incident had helped him to fix his relationship with his estranged father, as both realised life was too short to be holding grudges.

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"My dad came to see me in hospital," he added. "We had not talked to each other for years — about pushing me too hard, about fighting with my sister. But all that c*** went out of the window.

"I nearly died and we thought, 'Why are we arguing?' We made up — but it took that to make up. How crazy is that? I can't live all my life arguing with him."

He was speaking to promote the new documentary about his life, 'Dettori', which will be released on Monday.

Cochrane's racing career came to an end, but he began to work with Dettori as his agent in an arrangement which lasted until last year.

He too spoke about the crash and explained what he saw as he sprung into action.

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"We set off down the airfield, the wind caught it and it bounced," he said. "The propeller caught the ground and away it went again. I looked at Frankie and yanked up the seatbelt.

"There was smoke coming out of the engine. We were heading for Devil’s Dyke and the wing tip caught it and flipped over and I thought, 'This is going to hurt'.

"I woke up after 30 seconds or so and kicked the luggage door open. Frankie was covered in blood, couldn’t see, was screaming his leg was broken and couldn’t walk.

"I put him up on the ground and was climbing back in for Patrick – who had collapsed at the controls – but the engine was on fire and the wind was making it a flame-thrower coming at you Absolutely no chance of getting in.

"You feel guilty. You are stood eight feet from someone and there’s nothing you can do about it. But we were very lucky. If I had been knocked out for two minutes, neither of us would have been here."

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