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Woman hit by Johan Vansummeren in Tour of Flanders crash paralysed for life

Family still awaiting compensation for incident at 2014 Tour of Flanders

The woman hit by Belgian cyclist Johan Vansummeren during the Tour of Flanders will be paralysed for life, her husband has revealed. Marie-Claire Moreels’ medical costs have reached 10,000 euros but the family is yet to receive any compensation as insurers cannot pay out until an ongoing criminal case is concluded.

The incident took place around 60km into this year’s Tour of Flanders when Vansummeren – then of Garmin-Sharp – hit Moreels, who was standing on a traffic island, at speed. It is believed that Moreels then hit her head on a kerbstone.

Her husband, Philippe, was initially told by an anaesthetist that she had suffered severe trauma but would mostly recover, but he has since learnt that her condition is unlikely to improve. Marie-Claire has been left paralysed down the right side of her body and Philippe must help her eat and use the toilet. “She talks like a two year old,” he told Belgian’s Het Laatste Nieuws.

Vansummeren was also taken to hospital following the incident, but was discharged in the afternoon with facial stitching and a black eye and went on to ride Paris-Roubaix the following week. Speaking at the time, he said: “I never wanted this to happen. This could have been a beautiful day, but it turned out to be a nightmare. My thoughts are with her and her family."

Insurers cannot pay any compensation until it has been resolved who was responsible for the incident. We have previously reported how both Vansummeren and race organisers could face prosecution if investigators decide there is a case to answer. However, Belgian sports lawyer, Jean-Pierre Deprez, has said that while he believes Vansummeren should bear no responsibility, there could potentially be a case against Moreels herself.

"She put herself knowingly in danger in what is termed the theory of risk acceptance. Like in rally racing, spectators sometimes take unnecessary risks to enjoy the fleeting moment.”

However, Deprez adds that the woman cannot assume sole responsibility and that the race organisers could also be held responsible. “As it is a road incident involving a vulnerable [road] user, prosecution could happen, but the case looks complicated, given its specific context."

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Jonny_Trousers | 9 years ago

I may have read it wrong, but isn't the blame thing a technicality so that the poor lady can claim on her health/personal injury insurance? I'm not sure she or her husband were blaming anybody.

MrLeffe replied to Jonny_Trousers | 9 years ago

Yes , you're right, from that point of view, regardless of blame,its what anybody has to do in that situation.

phreakshow | 9 years ago

Surely is is a sporting accident. And surely it was an a culmination of choice and chance.
Yes, it is sad for her outcome. And, well, the race organizers have to know that someone was seriously injured on their course, and the rider has to live with the fact that a quick judgement call resulted in him having to live with the knowledge that he crippled a woman!
The hospital bill is expensive. The life lesson even more so, however, what has happened in our society where people cannot accept blame for their own choices and action. No one forced her and her husband to stand in a dangerous place. She did not purchase a ticket where the organizers gave her an area to stand and nowhere else. They chose a high risk viewing area for the thrill of the race, and their choice backfire, resulting in this incident. If the rider is held accountable, for an in race crash, as an avid rider myself, I would no longer race. As a team, I would no longer enter road races, and limit my team to closed circuit racing such as velodrome. And Organizers cannot be held accountable for such a format of an event, the cost of gating off an entire course would be unbelievable, and disrupt the areas involve for far longer than they already do, making it cost and time prohibited to host such event. Imagine gating off an entire tour to avoid poor choices? It would never happen.
At best it was a poor choice with a grave outcome, but no one except for those who made the decision to stand in a location where contact with the racers can be held accountable for their actions.
Apologies if you do not agree, but, the world is soft and no one accepts blame unless forced to by a lawyer.

hectorhtaylor replied to phreakshow | 9 years ago

"however, what has happened in our society where people cannot accept blame for their own choices and action."

The voice of reason. Well said. Unfortunately, there is a huge payday for lawyers down the line...

MrLeffe | 9 years ago

I think common sense tells you ,you stand on a small traffic island in the middle of a road with a group of 200 elite riders coming your way, there is a big risk, would you stand there if you knew 200 race cars were coming, no you wouldnt, people can't blame others for not using their own brain.

McDuff73 | 9 years ago

surely the organisors should be culpable for letting spectators stand in such a ridiculous place?

mattsccm | 9 years ago

I have huge sympathy for her and that's what insurance is for but it would be a terrible day if the organisers or the rider was found liable. Pretty well the end of cycling spectating as we know it and an indication that we cannot be allowed to think for ourselves any more.

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