For the past ten days, Raphaël, 19, has been making ends meet by making home deliveries for the pizzeria Bella Pizza in Beaugency. On May 24, 2020, around 10:45 p.m., he had just delivered his last order and returned to drop off the service vehicle in the restaurant parking lot when, at the bend of a curve, at a place called “Rougemont” in Tavershe loses control of his Peugeot 206.
The vehicle hit the ditch violently and rolled over five times before coming to a stop in a field. Raphaël, who had not fastened his seat belt, was ejected from the car. Rescuers were unable to resuscitate him.
According to a witness who attended the accident, the young man was driving at 140 km/h. The expert appointed by the gendarmerie is less categorical but notes, in his report, a “high speed” on this road limited to 70 km/h. The young man, who had had his license for less than six months, was driving “too fast” in view of the “curvature of the track”.
Tires worn “120%”
Added to this is the belt that was not attached. For the expert, no doubt: the “driver’s behavior is at the origin of the accident”. But justice, she wonders: the delivery vehicle, which has been circulating since 2004, had three tires showing a condition of “120% wear”. In short: totally smooth. On the back seat and in the trunk were five barrels of used oil, unsecured, for a total weight of more than 150 kilos. Did all these elements make the car uncontrollable in the bend?
The expert replied in the negative, considering that the poor state of maintenance of the 206 could have an “aggravating” role but not a trigger in this fatal accident.
Yet this Thursday, June 2, it is the former manager of the pizzeria Bella Pizza (now closed) who finds himself at the helm of the Orleans court. He must respond to manslaughter for letting his employee – whom he had not yet declared at the time of the tragedy – take the keys to a service vehicle which he knew was in poor condition.
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“If he drove slower, he would be with us today”
The explanations of this 35-year-old man, who speaks with difficulty in French, are difficult to follow. He thus assures that he had no unaware that the car was driving with three slick tires (and a spare wheel) but, at the same time, evokes a scheduled appointment “at Midas” for a complete overhaul.
For him, the Peugeot 206 was clearly not roadworthy – hence the presence of the oil cans in the back – “all the delivery men knew it”. Except perhaps Raphael to whom he did not formally give instructions not to use this car for deliveries. The keys to the Peugeot 206 were still freely available.
Recognizing half-word a certain responsibility, the ex-manager considers that it remains however less than that of the victim in the drama: “If he drove slower, he would be with us today” (sic).
An axis of defense which is also that of his lawyer, Me Saïd Harir, for whom the “catastrophic management” of his client should not make us forget the conclusions of the expert. “There is no causal link between the condition of the car and the accident” he insists, pleading for release from the public prosecutor who is claiming a 12-month suspended prison sentence to sanction the “fault” of the employer.
The Orleans court will deliver its deliberation on July 7.