Eight cyclists killed in crash in Italy

Driver 'under the influence of marijuana'

Eight cyclists were killed in southern Italy yesterday morning and four others injured after a speeding car crashed into a group of riders. The driver was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The incident took place near Lamezia Terme in Calabria. Italian newspaper La Repubblica named the driver as Chafik Elketani, a 21-year-old of Moroccan origin.

Initial reports suggested he was trying to overtake another vehicle on a main road when the collision happened. He hit the cyclists head-on. The car ended up in a ditch.

Elketani was reported to have been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash. He was also driving without a licence, as he was serving a six-month suspension for dangerous driving. It is understood that he emerged without serious injury from the wreckage of the car, along with his eight-year-old nephew, who was a passenger in the car.

The eight riders were part of an amateur group linked to the Atlas gym in Lamezia Terme. They were: Fortunato Bernardi, Rosario Perri (55), Francesco Stranges (51), Vinicio Pottin (47), Giovanni Cannizzaro (58), Pasquale De Luca (35) and Domenico Palazzo.

Silvio Rocca of the White Cross was one of the first people to reach the scene. “We were alerted to an accident in which only one cyclist was involved, according to the first information we had,” he said. “When we reached the scene, however, we saw that we were talking about a massacre. They were all people we knew personally which made it even more painful.”

The mayor of Lamezia Terme, Gianni Speranza, declared a state of mourning in the town. Italian Cycling Federation president Renato Di Rocco passed on his condolences to the families and friends of the dead.

Coach hits two riders in Cumbria

Two cyclists were killed yesterday in a collision with a coach in Cumbria, north-west England. The crash happened at around 3pm on the A595 in Moota.

Both riders, who were later named as brothers Christian, 29, and Nicholas Townend, 21, died at the scene. The coach driver, a 42-year-old from Carlisle, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed until 6 February.

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