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Women killed in Tour de France accident

The 61-year-old was struck by a police motorcycle while she was crossing the road.

July 19, 2009|Associated Press

BESANCON, FRANCE — A woman crossing the road during the Tour de France was killed Saturday when she was hit by a police motorcycle escorting riders. Two spectators were injured after the motorcycle skidded into them.

The accident happened in the early afternoon in Wittelsheim in eastern France during the 14th stage, a 124-mile route from Colmar to Besancon. A few breakaway riders had just come through the town center, Tour organizers said.

Organizers identified the victim as a 61-year-old woman. Race medical teams treated her immediately before emergency staffers arrived.

The accident happened 24 miles into the stage. After hitting the woman, the motorcycle skidded into two spectators. A 36-year-old complained of neck pain, and a 61-year-old suffered a broken leg. They were taken to a hospital and are not in serious condition, Lt. Col. Thierry Renard said. They were identified only by age.

Renard said the officer on the motorcycle was a member of France's elite Republican Guard and he was unable to avoid the woman.

The officer headed the Guard's "yellow flags" unit at the Tour, made up of experienced drivers, Tour Director Christian Prudhomme said. Their job is to spot obstacles on the road and clear the path for the rider pack. The officers often drive at high speeds.

Renard said he had no reason to question the driving of the motorcyclist, who had worked on the Tour several times. Tour organizers will use a previously scheduled commemoration before today's 15th stage in Pontarlier to honor the woman.

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