LAND ROVER, makers of the four-wheel-drive Range Rover, yesterday

defended the safety record of the car after the crash in France in which

five Britons died.

Millionaire businessman Mr Efrahim ''Freddie'' Rottman, 44, his sons

Guy, 13, and Daniel, 19, and daughter Nicole, 17, all from Highgate,

north London, died on Thursday when their Range Rover plunged into a

ravine near Nice in the south of France.

Ms Sarah Hall, 23, an employee of Mr Rottman's company, who was

holidaying with the family at the French Alpine ski resort of Isola,

also died in the accident.

Land Rover said the Range Rover model was ''just about the safest

vehicle on the road'' and one in which occupants were least likely to be

injured in an accident.

There have been a number of high-profile crashes involving the model:

* In 1985, barrister Mr Michael Stannard was in a Range Rover crash

near Carcassonne in France which killed his daughter and seriously

injured his wife. He claimed the vehicle's suspension was ''inherently


* In 1992, boxer Mr Chris Eubank blamed his Range Rover for an

accident in which a workman was killed on the A23 in West Sussex. Eubank

was fined #250 for driving without due care and attention.

* In June 1994, business tycoon Mr Richard Branson and his family

escaped with cuts and bruises when his Range Rover overturned on the M40

in Oxfordshire. Mr Branson said he owed his life to the strength of the

vehicle which skidded on its roof for yards.

* In July 1994, American restaurateur Mr Bob Payton died on the A1

when his Range Rover went over a barrier.

* In September 1994, the wife and two young children of merchant

banker Mr Ian Wace died after their Range Rover crossed a central crash

barrier on the A303 in Hampshire and was crushed by an on-coming lorry.

Mr Wace had been in a Mercedes travelling ahead of the Range Rover

driven by his wife. He claimed the vehicle was ''inherently unstable''.

French police are continuing their investigation into the latest

accident, which happened a mile outside the Isola 2000 Alpine resort

where the family had spent their holiday.

Mr Rottman was driving the Range Rover on the mountainous road down to

Nice, where the family have another home.

The car left the road at a bend, crashed through a barrier, and

plunged to a river bed beneath.

It flipped over and its roof was crushed.

Police were examining the wreckage for possible mechanical faults and

a post-mortem examination was carried out on Mr Rottman's body for any

evidence of medical conditions such as heart attack or stroke, as well

as routine checks for drink and drugs.

It is likely to be some days before the investigation is completed, an

Isola police spokesman said.

Land Rover spokesman, Mr Colin Walkey, defended the Range Rover's


''Statistical evidence shows that the Range Rover is just about the

safest vehicle on the road,'' he said.

''A Department of Transport report from earlier in the 1990s revealed

that you are less likely to be involved in an accident in a Range Rover

than with any other vehicle.

''It also showed that if you were in a Range Rover accident, there was

less likelihood of being injured.''

Asked about the number of fatal accidents involving the vehicle, Mr

Walkey replied: ''I think there just happens to have been a number of

incidents involving high-profile people or accidents that have been

particularly tragic.''

He added: ''All Range Rovers have side-impact beams and airbags. There

is certainly no evidence to suggest that they are unstable.''

French police said the victims in Thursday's crash would probably have

survived if the vehicle had landed on its wheels, rather than upside


Relatives of the dead family were coming to terms with what is the

second terrible tragedy to have marred their lives.

Twenty years ago, Mr Rottman's only sister, her husband and two

children, died in a plane crash near Paris which killed 346 people, the

worst in aviation history at the time.

The Rottmans came to Britain in the late 1950's. Mr Rottman and is

wife, Marsha, from London, were married in 1978.

The family were involved with several textile and electronic firms,

including Grundig.

They were well known members of the London Jewish community and

worshipped at the Western Synagogue, near Hyde Park.