UPDATED: Six cyclists struck by car during Guanacaste race
Updated on Nov. 2 to reflect new information about the circumstances of the accident that took place on Oct. 29.
It has been a year of terrifying Sundays for Costa Rican athletes.
On Sunday, as cyclists in San José commemorated the nine-month anniversary of the deaths of four riders in a January hit-and-run – and exactly one week after a runner was killed by a drunk driver during the San José Half-Marathon – six cyclists were struck by a car during a race in Guanacaste.
The six professional racers were participating in the final round of the Nicoya Classic on Sunday morning when the accident took place, according to Costa Rican cycling news website CRCiclismo. All six – Daniel Jara, Fabricio Quirós, Paulo Vargas, Dylan Castillo, Leonardo Campos and Manuel Larios – survived the accident but were treated for fractures and other injuries.
Witness and coach Gilbert Tencio, who was riding in a car behind the racers, told CRCiclismo that “the car tossed them into the air like dolls.”
According to CRCiclismo, police tests showed the driver was not under the influence of alcohol.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, confusion surrounded its circumstances: CRCiclismo reported that the driver of the car allegedly ignored traffic police indications; however, both the cycling website and the daily La Nación also reported that the cyclists may have crossed into the car’s lane just before impact.
The plot thickened when video from the car’s hood cam, published by Channel 7 News (Teletica) on Monday, showed that the car did pull to one side as directed by traffic police at the start of the race, but then continued driving on the right-hand side once an initial group of cyclists passed by. After coming around a curve, the car collided with the cyclists who were riding head-on towards the car in the right-hand lane. A number of vehicles were travelling in the opposite lane.
Finger-pointing has continued: Teletica reported Tuesday that the race organizers blame the driver, while the driver says he will seek damages and blames the Traffic Police and the race organizers.
Just over 200 km away in San José on Sunday, a group of cyclists and their supporters gathered in Desamparados, south of the city, and rode toward the town of Tres Ríos to the east of the capital, stopping at the place where, on Jan. 29 of this year, four cyclists were hit by a drunk driver as they began an early Sunday morning ride to Irazú Volcano.
The accident took place at 4:11 am just outside Wal Mart on the road known as the old highway to Tres Ríos. Three of the cyclists died at the scene, and a third died within days at the hospital. The driver fled the scene, but police later found the vehicle and identified the driver.
The case against the driver in the Tres Ríos case is still being processed.
On Sunday, Oct. 22, elite Venezuelan athlete David Yáñez was struck and killed by a drunk driver as he participated in the San José Half-Marathon. Yáñez, who had been living in Costa Rica for about five months, was hoping to earn prize money to send back to his family in Venezuela. The driver attempted to flee the scene but was apprehended by police almost immediately.
The driver in the David Yáñez case was released the day of the incident, though he is not allowed to leave the country and must sign in once a month while the investigation is underway.
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