The van transporting Portuguese emigrants across France, crashing and leaving 12 of them dead, was speeding when it collided with an Italian meat lorry while trying to overtake.
The accident happened on March 24th, 2016 near Moulins, as twelve Portuguese emigrants from Switzerland were being transported to Portugal where they intended to spend their Easter holidays.
Seven days before the fatal accident, the van driver had been fined for speeding along the same road.
The French Public Ministry is prosecuting Ricardo Pinheiro, the 21-year-old driver and his uncle, Arménio Martins, the 43-year-old owner of the vehicle. Neither men had a license to transport passengers and both have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Between July 2015 and March 17, 2016, the indictment reads that the van 'was detected 14 times being driven over the speed limit' across France. Fines were issued.
As for the day of the accident, vehicle accident experts calculated that the van had clocked up an average speed of 120kmph, when the maximum speed limit on that road was 80kmph.
The van also was unsafe with under-inflated tires (two of them were over 10-years-old) which risked bursting, and no way of safely securing luggage.
The vehicle was overloaded and four passengers had no access to safety belts. Others had safety belt anchors held in place by woodworking screws rather than proper bolts.
This non-standard seating system in the van was makeshift, designed to cram in as many passengers as possible.
The expert witnesses pointed out the "dangerous and reckless driving, the excessive speed, the overloading of the vehicle and an overtaking manoeuver" as the causes of the accident.
As for the vehicle, “it is not a vehicle intended for carrying passengers (even less so for more than six people)," the accident expert pointed out, concluding that the vehicle was, in fact, no more than a builder’s van.
As for the overloading, the owner of the vehicle at first claimed that he had given a lift to three Portuguese whose car had broken down. This story later was retracted.
For the original report, see, http://algarvedailynews.com/news/8416-accident-in-france-driver-and-van-owner-charged-with-manslaughter