Investigation launched into accident that killed Iranian Paralympics cyclist

Bahman Golbarnezhad is first Paralympic athlete to die in competitor after losing control on road race descent in Rio

An Iranian cyclist, Bahman Golbarnezhad, has become the first Paralympic athlete to die in competition, after a horrific accident in the mens C4/ C5 road race in Rio on Saturday.

A joint investigation involving Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee, Rio police, medical authorities and cyclings world governing body, the UCI, has been opened to establish the full circumstances of what was described as a tragic accident.

The 48 -year-old from Shiraz lost control on a descent 35 km into the race, at 10.35 am local day, the head of Irans national Paralympic committee( NPC) said.

Masoud Ashrafi, the head of the NPC, said Golbarnezhad lost control and he made the fence or wall. Witness statements were being taken in an attempt to ascertain whether any other rider was involved and the exact circumstances of the accident.

The crash happened at a right-hand bend on Avenida Estado da Guanabara on the hilly Grumari circuit, a spokesman for the Rio 2016 organising committee said.

Golbarnezhad received immediate medical attention and initially presented good vital signs, despite having sustained a head injury and caused significant damage to his cycling helmet, the spokesman added. However, his condition deteriorated after he was transferred to an ambulance.

Golbarnezhad died following a second cardiac arrest the first happened as he was transferred into the ambulance on arrival at Unimed Rio hospital in Barra at 11.50 am local time on Saturday.

The IPC president, Sir Philip Craven, said: This is an absolutely tragic day for the Paralympic movement and also the Games here in Rio. The Paralympic family is united in grief at this horrendous tragedy, which casts a darknes over what have been great Paralympic Games.

The UCI sports director, Piers Jones, defended the nature of the course and said full assessment of risks had been carried out. The collision did not take place on the quickest segment of the course.

Jones said: The courses are designed to be competitive. All the cyclists here are experienced cyclists. And the levels of different functional ability are accounted for. There were several different courses being used for the para-cycling road races, which reflected the functional ability of each of the sport classes.

Rio 2016, which took cost-cutting measures in the implementation of the Paralympics, and the IPC insisted none of the cuts affected the athletes, competitors or security. Craven added that the ambulance was staffed by a doctor, in addition to paramedics. Everything was done to try to save Bahmans life, he said.

The road races began at Pontal and included the Grumari circuit incorporated in the Rio Olympics road races. The Vista Chinesa circuit which included a treacherous descent where Hollands Annemiek van Vleuten crashed into the kerb, sustaining heavy concussion was not part of the Paralympic course.

Golbarnezhad, who also vied at the London 2012 Paralympics, was 14 th in the time trial on Wednesday. He was Irans sole cyclist at the Rio Games.

Reports of Golbarnezhads death first emerged on Saturday afternoon and the IPC announced it in a statement at 6pm local tim. The lag was due to the need for the Iran NPC to notify his family and Irans 110 athletes and 18 officers at the Rio Paralympics before constructing the news public.

Irans NPC had two petitions: that Golbarnezhads body be released to be returned to his family and that a full investigation take place.

Craven devoted his assurances that any firm facts established would be communicated to Irans NPC and Golbarnezhads family prior to full publishing of the report.

Golbarnezhad had his lower left leg amputated following injuries sustained during the course of its Iran-Iraq war in the 1980 s. Officials did not know further details. He was marriage and had one son.

Ashrafi said: Bahman was one of the most hard-working active athletes that weve had. He had been cycling for 12 years and he was our best cyclist. He was a family man. He loved his family, he loved his son.

Theyre having a very, difficult situation at the moment and all I can hope for is his body is with his family and it would be something to build them feel better.

The IPC said the Iranian flag has been lowered to half-mast in the athletes village. The Paralympic flag will also be flown at half-mast in the Paralympic Village and at the Riocentro venue, where Iran play Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday in the sitting volleyball gold-medal match.

A period of silence will be held during Sunday nights closing ceremony.

Saturdays race was won by Daniel Abraham of Holland, with Brazils Lauro Chaman second and Andrea Tarlao of Italy third.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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