Seven cyclists killed in head-on crash

 

SEVEN AMATEUR cyclists out for a morning ride were killed yesterday near Lamezia Terme in Calabria when they were hit head-on by an oncoming car that had misjudged an overtaking manoeuvre.

Initial reports suggest that the car, a powerful Mercedes driven by 21-year-old Chafik Elktrani, went out of control while travelling at high speed.

Mr Elktrani, from Morocco, whose driving licence was suspended seven months ago following a dangerous overtaking incident, tested positive for cannabis yesterday, said police.

Mr Elktrani, who himself received non-life threatening injuries in the crash, was last night formally arrested on charges of multiple manslaughter. Also lightly injured in the crash was his eight-year-old nephew who was with him in the car.

Gennaro Perri, one of three seriously injured cyclists who survived the pile-up, provided the only eyewitness account of the horrific accident. “I saw that at a certain point where the road is straight the Mercedes went out of control as it was overtaking. But we didn’t have time to realise what was happening.”

Mr Perri, whose brother Rosario was one of those killed, said he saw Mr Elktrani get out of his car immediately after the accident. The young Moroccan, he said, did not seem to realise the gravity of what had happened. Rather than looking at the bodies strewn across the road, his first instinct was to ask if anybody had a mobile phone he could use.

TV footage showed the bodies, covered with white sheets, and a series of mangled bicycles strewn across the Statale 18, a straight stretch at the point the accident happened.

It is a common sight on a Sunday morning – groups of amateur cyclists out for their weekly ride. The seven cyclists killed yesterday all belonged to the Atlas amateur cycling club based in Sambiase, near Lamezia Terme.

Fortunato Bernardi, one of those who died, was the uncle of rising Inter Milan star, Felice Natalino (18), while his son, Alessandro, plays for third-division side Cosenza. Three of the dead cyclists were solicitors based in Lamezia Terme.

Italian road safety organisation ASAPS reports that in the last five years between 300 and 350 cyclists have been killed annually on Italian roads. A total of 6,000 deaths a year are caused by car crashes.