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Drunk driver kills two cyclists in Ghent

06:48 29/02/2024

A 45-year-old drunk driver with a history of traffic violations killed two cyclists in Ghent over the weekend when he struck a group of five people cycling along a bike lane.

The other three cyclists were injured, one of them seriously, and the driver is reported to have already had his licence withdrawn three times for traffic offences and driving under the influence.

According to the initial findings of the investigation, the accident was caused by the car changing direction and speeding. The exact speed has yet to be determined by an expert and tests have yet to reveal whether the man was under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

The car first hit a curb near a bus stop on the right-hand side of the road before being catapulted into cyclists coming from the opposite direction.

“That's what my client was told yesterday, but he can't remember anything,” a lawyer for the driver said.

“Did he fall asleep at the wheel? It's possible, but he doesn't know. All he remembers is that the airbags went off and that he then saw people lying there.”

According to a witness, the car was travelling at “very high speed” and the driver shouted “you can't die, you have to stay alive” after the collision, Le Soir reports.

The man was driving under a suspended licence when he struck and killed the cyclists. Having lost his licence in 2014, he failed to undergo the medical and psychological tests required to get it back.

Despite not having a licence, the man was able to register and insure his own vehicle, the one in which he hit the cyclists.

He has since been placed under arrest for two counts of manslaughter, assault and battery and driving without a licence. He will also be charged with driving under the influence and speeding.

Figures show that a third of drunk driving accidents involve a repeat offender.

Cycling safety remains an issue in a number of Belgian cities, including in Brussels where a cyclist was hit by a truck on Avenue Simon Bolivar near Brussels North on Tuesday.

The victim was struck at the same location where bicycle courier Sultan Zadran was hit and killed by a Flixbus last year.

The cyclist was taken to hospital with an injury to the leg.

“The breathalyser tests were negative,” a police spokesperson said of the accident.

Photo: Nicolas De Cocker/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons