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Saudi Prince Killed in Car Crash

July 23, 2002 GMT

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ The Saudi royal family suffered a double tragedy when a prince driving to the funeral of his cousin _ a prince who owned Kentucky Derby-winner War Emblem _ was killed in a car accident Tuesday.

Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah was driving before dawn from the western Saudi town of Taif to the capital, Riyadh, for the late afternoon funeral of his cousin, Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Joint funeral prayers were held for the princes at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque, the kingdom’s largest. The cousins were later buried side by side at Oudh cemetery.

Thousands of people lined Riyadh streets to watch the funeral procession, which was led by the two ambulances carrying the princes’ bodies followed by a stream of black Mercedes with relatives.

Prince Ahmed, a publishing tycoon and the first Arab horse owner to win the prestigious race, died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 43. Prince Sultan’s mother and Prince Ahmed’s father are siblings of King Fahd.

The crash that killed Prince Sultan, a 41-year-old businessman and former military pilot, happened near Riyadh, according to security officials and a statement from the Saudi Royal Palace. Security officials said on condition of anonymity that the high speed of the prince’s car likely caused the crash, which involved another vehicle. There were no further details.

A close family friend who spoke on condition of anonymity said Prince Sultan was coming back from vacation for Prince Ahmed’s funeral. Both princes died at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

Among those who attended the brief service were Prince Ahmed’s father, Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman; Defense Minister Prince Sultan; foreign diplomats; Gulf royalty and business associates.

While both were members of the royal family, Prince Ahmed was the more prominent. His father received hundreds of people _ royalty and otherwise _ at the governor’s palace in Riyadh.

Prince Ahmed’s victories on the racetrack often made headlines in Saudi newspapers.

The prince spent $900,000 to buy War Emblem just three weeks before it won the Kentucky Derby, after the horse won the Illinois Derby. War Emblem also won the Preakness and then stumbled as the heavy favorite at the start of the Belmont Stakes, denying racing the rare sight of a Triple Crown winner.

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``I think this is one of the best investments I ever made in my life, besides buying oil in Arabia,″ the U.S.-educated Prince Ahmed said after War Emblem won the Preakness. He also owned Spain, horse racing’s all-time female money-winner.

Beyond his lifelong passion of horses, Prince Ahmed led a publishing empire. Under his chairmanship, the publishing company Saudi Research and Marketing Group flourished to have assets of more than $533 million.

The pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat carried eight full-page condolences Tuesday for Prince Ahmed from Saudi businessmen and companies. Saudi, British and American racing and publishing figures have paid him tribute, recalling him as an unpretentious prince with a passion for horses.

Prince Ahmed also founded a multimillion dollar cooking oil company, Nabati, in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia, but unlike his father, he never sought a government post. He pursued military studies and later social studies in California.

Prince Ahmed had been suffering stomach problems in recent weeks, but associates said he had been well enough to lead a board meeting in Riyadh 10 days ago.

Prince Ahmed is survived by a wife and five children. Prince Sultan is survived by a wife and two children.