Czech rally ends in tragedy


What should have been an exciting and above all safe automobile race for spectators in the region of Slovácko on Saturday, the RallyShow Uherský Brod, ended in tragedy when one of the vehicles, car No. 27, flew off the road into nearby spectators. Four people were killed. The darkest day in Czech rally history left many in shock and many unanswered questions.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The RallyShow Uherský Brod had been underway for an hour when tragedy struck: a Mitsubishi Lancer manned by two experienced racers, flew over the curb at an estimated 150 kilometres an hour and swept onlookers – four girls between the ages of six and 19 (two of them sisters) - in its path. The accident took place at the village of Lopeník and all four of those killed were locals, not very far from their homes. In an instant, witnesses confirmed, there was silence, followed only by the sound of approaching sirens and there was nothing anyone could do to help. Petr Olšan is the spokesman for the region’s emergency services:

“Medics attended to seven people who had been hit in the accident, three of whom suffered light or heavier injuries. Unfortunately, four of those struck – including one child – were killed instantly.”

The routes of races like the RallyShow Uherský Brod are agreed with local municipalities, but most safety measures are within the competency of organisers. During such events, they are expected to inform residents and visitors well in advance about precautions to take. Likewise, dangerous areas are supposed to be cordoned off. A police investigation now underway should determine who, if anyone was at fault in this accident and if the area was properly labelled. Most, however, have been left struggling to understand why the girls were able to stand so close to the route at all.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Josef Pátl is the spokesman for the Czech Motorsport Federation: “This was a spot that was off-limits to viewers. At this time, we are trying to figure out why those spectators were there.”

Mr Pátl suggested on Czech TV to a degree that similar accidents were unavoidable. But that is no comfort for those touched by Saturday’s tragedy – the worst accident in Czech rally history. Just this September another spectator was killed during a race leading to tougher safety measures and restrictions in professional races (making it more difficult, for example, to qualify as a racer for example or forcing viewers further back away from the action). Paradoxically, Saturday’s was an amateur event and it may be that the rules there were more lenient, something the investigation will have to reveal. Members of the Czech Motorsport Federation are set to meet to discuss possible changes and restrictions on Tuesday; for Lopeník, though, it’s too late: the village, brought together by tragedy, has made clear it will never allow another race.