CHATEAUROUX, France — Tour de France organizers said they have dropped their legal action against a spectator who caused a massive crash on the first stage.
Organizers made the decision in a bid to defuse the situation after the careless spectator was placed in custody, race spokesperson Fabrice Tiano said on Thursday.
Gendarmes in Brittany arrested her on Wednesday, four days after the accident brought down dozens of riders and forced German rider Jasha Sutterlin to abandon the race.
The spectator brandished a large cardboard sign while leaning into the path of oncoming riders. She appeared to be looking in the other direction, apparently at a camera, and not at the approaching peloton.
The woman, not publicly identified, was arrested in the Finistere region by gendarmes who tracked her down based on accounts from people questioned this week.
Despite the Tour’s decision, local prosecutors will decide whether or not to file charges.
Tour organizers announced after the crash on the stage from Brest to Landerneau that they would start legal proceedings against the fan, who disappeared from the crash scene. She leaned into the path of veteran rider Tony Martin, whose fall had a domino effect on the peloton.
The Gendarmerie in Landerneau, east of Brest, put out a call for witnesses shortly after the pileup.
Fans gathering on the sides of roads and in villages as riders pass by is part of the tradition and charm of the Tour. The woman’s sign read “Allez Opi-Omi,” a mix of French and German-language terms of endearment for grandparents – “Go Grandpa-Grandma.”
Brest prosecutor Camille Miansoni told a press conference on Thursday that the suspect was questioned alongside her partner, who had been with her during the stage. Miansoni said she wanted to send an “affectionate message” to her grandparents, adding that the suspect’s grandmother has German origins.
At the press conference, Col. Nicolas Duvinage urged everyone to calm down on social networks after several messages calling for violence were posted on the local gendarmerie Facebook page.
“The person being accused also has personal weaknesses and it is therefore advisable not to proceed to a media lynching or on social networks,” he said.