A FIRE marshal was killed and driver David Coulthard had another lucky escape yesterday when he was one of five drivers caught up in a first-lap crash at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Paolo Ghislimberti, 30, from Trento, died at Monza Hospital. He is understood to have been struck by a piece of flying debris from the accident which accounted for five cars, all of which are understood to have been impounded by the police.

It was the first fatality in Formula One since Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

Coulthard had a narrow escape earlier this year with his fiancee and personal trainer from a crashed jet which killed two pilots. Yesterday one of the crashed vehicles cleared his head by inches.

The incident saw the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello and the two Jordans of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli collide, with the German's car disintegrating as it spun across the track. The Scot's McLaren and the Arrows of Pedro de la Rosa also became involved, with the quintet then all ploughing into the gravel trap.

De la Rosa's car had hit the rear of Johnny Herbert's Jaguar, with the Briton braking to avoid the chaos, leading to the Spaniard barrel-rolling through the air, just clearing Coulthard's head by inches. The Scot's retirement effectively rules him out of the race for the F1 world title.

After the race, won by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari, the team's sporting director, Jean Todt, said: ''This result has been saddened by the death of a track official. He was one of a group of people without whom there would be no motor racing. I dedicate this victory to them.''

Coulthard said: ''It's very sad and tragic about what's happened to the marshal.''

The victory was the 41st win of Schumacher's career, equalling that of Senna.