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Woman hit by Johan Vansummeren in Tour of Flanders crash paralysed for life

Family still awaiting compensation for incident at 2014 Tour of Flanders

The woman hit by Belgian cyclist Johan Vansummeren during the Tour of Flanders will be paralysed for life, her husband has revealed. Marie-Claire Moreels’ medical costs have reached 10,000 euros but the family is yet to receive any compensation as insurers cannot pay out until an ongoing criminal case is concluded.

The incident took place around 60km into this year’s Tour of Flanders when Vansummeren – then of Garmin-Sharp – hit Moreels, who was standing on a traffic island, at speed. It is believed that Moreels then hit her head on a kerbstone.

Her husband, Philippe, was initially told by an anaesthetist that she had suffered severe trauma but would mostly recover, but he has since learnt that her condition is unlikely to improve. Marie-Claire has been left paralysed down the right side of her body and Philippe must help her eat and use the toilet. “She talks like a two year old,” he told Belgian’s Het Laatste Nieuws.

Vansummeren was also taken to hospital following the incident, but was discharged in the afternoon with facial stitching and a black eye and went on to ride Paris-Roubaix the following week. Speaking at the time, he said: “I never wanted this to happen. This could have been a beautiful day, but it turned out to be a nightmare. My thoughts are with her and her family."

Insurers cannot pay any compensation until it has been resolved who was responsible for the incident. We have previously reported how both Vansummeren and race organisers could face prosecution if investigators decide there is a case to answer. However, Belgian sports lawyer, Jean-Pierre Deprez, has said that while he believes Vansummeren should bear no responsibility, there could potentially be a case against Moreels herself.

"She put herself knowingly in danger in what is termed the theory of risk acceptance. Like in rally racing, spectators sometimes take unnecessary risks to enjoy the fleeting moment.”

However, Deprez adds that the woman cannot assume sole responsibility and that the race organisers could also be held responsible. “As it is a road incident involving a vulnerable [road] user, prosecution could happen, but the case looks complicated, given its specific context."

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