Prosecutors investigating the deaths of seven cyclists at Lamezia Terme in Calabria, Italy, on Sunday are considering charging the driver involved with murder, according to a report in Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The newspaper says prosecutors have dismissed the version of events provided by the driver, 21-year-old Moroccan national Chafik El Ketani, currently being held in the southern Italian town’s jail, which means he could face charges of multiple murder rather than manslaughter.
The motorist tested positive for having smoked marijuana in the aftermath of the incident, and police revealed that he had previously been banned from driving for dangerous overtaking.
Sunday’s chain of events is believed to have begun with El Ketani overtaking a vehicle at speed on a bend, meaning that he was on the wrong side of the road when he hit the group of cyclists head-on.
He claims, however, that he was forced to react after another driver cut him up, a story contested by prosecutor Salvatore Vitelli, who told the newspaper that those circumstances “didn’t correspond with the truth.”
Ahead of the funeral of the seven cyclists which took place this morning in the town’s football stadium in front of thousands of mourners, each coffin accompanied by a bicycle, mayor Gianni Speranza said: “Now is the time to allow the families to grieve for their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, organisers of the Giro d’Italia have confirmed that the course of next May’s race will pass the site of Sunday’s tragedy.
Stage 8 of the 2011 Giro, announced in Turin last month, takes the peloton from Sapri in Campania to Tropea in Calabria on Saturday 14 May, ahead of the race crossing the Straits of Messina for a double ascent of Mount Etna the following day.
Although the route was already due to pass Lamezia Terme, scene of Sunday’s tragedy, precise details had not yet been revealed but it has now been confirmed that the peloton will pass the site of the accident.
It has not been disclosed whether any special commemoration will mark the race passing the point on Strada Statale 18 where the cyclists’ lost their lives.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.