|Wednesday, July 17
Child killed by car before start of Stage 10
PAU, France -- A 7-year-old boy was struck and killed by a car in the Tour de France convoy Wednesday as the cycling race moved through southwest France.
Melvin Pompele was hit on the route of the Tour's 10th stage from Bazas to Pau, at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said the boy was crossing the road about 15½ miles from Bazas when he was hit by a car belonging to a Tour sponsor, candy manufacturer Haribo.
Leblanc said the car was not speeding and the driver's alcohol test was negative. He said a minute of silence would be held Thursday.
Riders had yet to take the start when the accident occurred at 1:30 p.m. local time. The convoy is made up of dozens of vehicles belonging to sponsors, journalists, team officials and organizers.
Thousands of people, including many children, line the stage route every day. As cars drive past, sponsors throw tiny gifts such as candy and baseball caps to onlookers. Most stretches of the route do not have safety barriers.
"I haven't heard it said that it was because of candy that the boy was crossing the road," Leblanc said.
He said that rules for distributing gifts were "very strict," and that they called on sponsors to only hand them out at very low speeds and ensure they don't fall into the road.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he felt "deep sadness" when he learned of the child's death, and that it showed event organizers needed to improve safety.
"It forces us to take a look at security issues," Raffarin told reporters during a trip to eastern France. "It is obvious that young children must be particularly protected."
Two years ago, a 12-year-old boy was struck and killed by a sponsor vehicle while watching riders. Tour officials beefed up road safety measures as a result.