Strépy carnival tragedy driver admits that he was driving too fast, video footage confirms that he braked
The driver of the car that ran into the members of group a carnival group in Strépy near La Louvière on Sunday morning, has admitted that he was speeding. However, he stresses that he tried to brake seconds before he collided with the group, killing 6 people and seriously injuring 10 others. Video footage seems to confirm this.
The Mons Examining Magistrate has decided that the driver Paolo F. will remain in custody for the time being. The 34-year-old was questioned on Monday evening. Initially, Paolo F. was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, but the Examining Magistrate has changed the charges to involuntary manslaughter and involuntary grievous bodily harm in the context of a road traffic accident.
If convicted, he risks a custodial sentence of between 3 months and 5 years.
He was driving too fast
The investigation shows that the car was clearly driving too fast in an area a 50 km/h speed limit is in force. The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that he was driving at “about 90 km/h. Camera footage shows that the car braked shortly before impact. The driver says that he drove on for several hundred metres after the crash because he was in shock.
Chief Prosecutor Ignacio de la Serna says the detectives want to get more electronic data from the suspect’s car. "For example, we don't know yet whether the driver was driving even faster than 90 km/h. There is a video from just before the cash showing him driving at speeds of between 100 and 120 km/h in a place where a speed limit of 50 km/h applies."
The data should also provide more information about what the driver did after the crash.
"Tragedy happened in Seconds"
According to the driver's lawyer, he does not know what exactly happened. "The tragedy happened in seconds my client says. He was in the car, the windows had smashed, two victims had ended up in the car, he was covered in blood because his head had hit the windscreen, he heard crying and knocking on the vehicle, and he didn't realize at the time that he had run into the carnival group," says lawyer Frank Discepo told VRT News.
“Little by little my client is becoming more aware of the magnitude of this tragedy. What you should know is that until a few hours ago, he had been completely cut off from the outside world, which makes sense within the context of a criminal investigation. He did not know the extent of what has happened and at one point even wondered whether any of the victims were friends or relatives. Now that he has learned how many victims there are his thoughts go out to them. He's really sorry.'
The driver's lawyer has also asked for further investigations to be made into whether the carnival group had been authorised to walk on the public highway. Chief Prosecutor De La Serna says that they did. In any case the group was on the right side of the road.
“The main cause here was excessive speed," Mr De La Serna added.
Meanwhile, the charges against the 32-year-old passenger in the vehicle has also been altered. He is no longer suspected of manslaughter, but now is suspected of failure to offer assistance to a person/persons in need. This is because he stood and waited rather than contacted the emergency services after the crash. He has been released on conditional bail.