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Cyclist Injured By Photographer’s Lens During Race Files Complaint, Possible Lawsuit

By Hanssie on May 18th 2015

The careless photographer whose telephoto lens caused a cyclist to fall, break his arm and sent numerous other racers sprawling last week will possibly be facing several lawsuits for the incident. In the sprinting portion of Stage 6 of the world’s second most famous bicycle race (after the Tour de France), the Giro d’Italia, cyclist Daniele Colli ran into a spectator’s camera lens and broke his arm in two places.  The race leader, Alberto Contador, also suffered a dislocated shoulder. If you missed the story, you can read it and watch the graphic video in this article.

After a long and painful surgery, where two screws were inserted, Colli and his team have filed an official criminal complaint and are considering a possible civil suit against the photographer for “the damage caused to the team,” reports the team manager, Francesco Pelosi. The photographer could face another civil suit from race coordinators RCS Sport for “ruining the imagine of our race.”

giro-ditalia-crash

Not Paying Attention

The photographer, who was also reported to have suffered some injuries, has only been identified as a 30-year-old local camera store owner on the Tuscan coast in Castiglione della Pescaia named Mark. Mark released the following statement through his lawyer on Saturday as reported in Italian in La Gazzetta dello Sport, (translated thanks to Italian language student and one of our London readers, Dean Ayres):

I am sorry for what has happened. I hope Daniele Colli recovers soon and that Contador finishes the tour in the saddle. I am deeply saddened by what has happened, and although I am convinced that I have not been careless, I am anguished by the idea that a young person has had to abandon the Tour due to the fall. The reconstructions and the statements of these days have unfortunately turned an accident into a mystery, and a normal person into a monster. I am close to the two injured sportsmen, and I hope that Daniel will give me a way to visit him as soon as possible.

Reports suggest that Mark was leaning over the railing that separates the crowds and the cyclists and was not paying attention, possibly looking at the photographs he had taken (known as chimping). Pelosi states, “The police have more or less identified this person, he’s a 30-year-old guy with a passion for photography. He was outside the barriers, he wasn’t accredited and he injured Daniele with the zoom lens of his camera maybe because he was looking at the pictures he had just shot.” giro-de-italia-1What’s the Solution?

This was an unfortunate accident for all parties involved and in cases like this, finger pointing and opinions abound. Is the photographer to blame for leaning out too far and allegedly not paying attention? A handful of people are wondering why the cyclist was speeding so close to the barriers, and more people are suggesting that they keep the crowds at a further distance away from the cyclists by using a second barrier in future races. Pelosi suggests that public education would be more beneficial than more barriers. We will have to see what adjustments might be made for next year’s race.

As for Colli, he is in recovery and looking to move past this accident, which is another set back in his racing career. In 2010, he endured multiple surgeries to remove a benign tumor in his leg. Alberto Contador was able to ride the day after the crash and retains the lead as they enter Stage 10 on Tuesday.

What do you think? Should Mark be liable for the crash? What action should the race organizers take to ensure the safety of its cyclists and the spectators in the future? Comment below.

[Via DIY Photography/Cycling News]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kevin Smith

    Pelosi is absolutely right in that education would be more beneficial than barriers because people lean over the barriers or climb on them to get closer causing the same problems. The cyclists are going up to 60km/h on the flat sections of road along with cars and motorcycles, but they wouldn’t get extremely close to the cars so why the bicycles? Photographers are always trying to get as close to the action as they possibly can, but some photographers like this unnamed 30-year old, get too close causing accidents. This happens with spectators too and obsessive fans like you commonly see for football fans in the US. Did the photographer do his due diligence to protect his safety and the safety of the riders making this a situation that was not preventable or did his mistake / accident cause the crash?

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  2. Pentafoto Tm

    Putting barriers further away from the crowd will alienate the spectators. In the UK they have seats right next to the pitch, the spectators are a meter away from the game, and there are no incidents and the stadiums are full. In Italy, they have barriers and nets and fences far away from the pitch and the stadiums are empty. Sure, not all stadiums and maybe not because of the fences, but being close to the action surely adds to the experience.

    I also like to shoot close from the action but I care about my subjects, while this photographer didn’t care. He didn;t shoot with a small lens, he shot with a monster 70-200, 2 kg, 45 cm lens hanging over the barrier, during a full speed full court sprint. He was very ignorant of the environment he is in. A real photographer would shoot tele as they come in and switch to a wide angle when the cyclists were close. Or just chimp with the camera behind the barrier. He deserves his punishment.

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  3. Dustin Baugh

    Spectators will keep crowding right upto the barrier and the cyclists will keep going up to the barrier to try to pass. No education will solve the issue as it’s all accidents in the heat of the moment.

    They just need to setup a double barrier system. The segments could even be connected for easy deployment. A 4ft crowd barrier with a 3 ft event barrier welded to it with a 2ft gap in between the two. Just like at rowdy concerts but without the security guards wandering the gap to pick off crowd surfers.

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  4. Matthew Blasi

    A lot of people seem to be blaming the photographer taking the stance he should not have had his camera over the barrier. Have any of you ever been to one of these events? People ALL have their hands and cameras over the barriers waving their hands about with flags.

    Watch the footage from overhead (youtube video from the other post at 0:23), the cyclist was pushed towards the outside as he tries to pass the rider ahead of him where he runs into the guy with the camera. Fact is there are any number of other people he could have run into had he moved that close at any point, the camera from the video angles didn’t appear to be that far into the crowd at all when you compare it to how far out some people have their hands.

    The photographer also doesn’t seem to be chimping (unless he was doing it through the viewfinder). If you look at the forward angle his face it up to the camera. (youtube video from the other post at 0:03 and 0:15). At least that’s what it looks like to me.

    I feel bad for the people hurt, but honestly I don’t see blaming the photographer for this. If there is a rule in place to not put anything including your hands over the rails they need to make that very clear and then actually enforce it.

    If we want to be constructive and consider alternatives, I like the idea of a buffer zone. We put a no-mans-land on road course for automotive races, why not one here? I don’t think you need the massive fences or anything to that degree though.

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  5. Marc W.

    “Reports suggest that Mark was leaning over the railing that separates the crowds and the cyclists and was not paying attention, possibly looking at the photographs he had taken (known as chimping). ”

    Shoot film, folks. :)

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  6. Richard Bremer

    Instead of pointing fingers and assigning blame, in my opinion it’s better to make sure this tragic accident doesn’t happen again.

    As for extra protective measures, does this kind of crash happen often? Or is this an isolated incident? If the latter, then I don’t think extra measures are neccessary. Or perhaps a general warning to all spectators can be issues to stay behind the fences. Perhaps a few fines for those still going over will enforce the rule.
    If, however, this type of accident (cyclist running into limb or object at the fence) happens more often, then a double barrier might be the solution.

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    • Thomas Horton

      The question is how many injured cyclists would be acceptable before the need for increased barriers? Some would say that one cyclist injured by an idiot photographer is one too many.

      One of the problems now is that because of the action of this idiot as well as the other idiots, the participants of the competition now have to worry whether someone is going to lean over the barrier and stick a lens in the path of a cyclist. That type of worry is detrimental to the cyclists ability to focus on the competition.

      That’s why there are barriers in the first place — so that the area open to the cyclists is open and safe so the cyclists can concentrate on the competition and not have to worry about idiots.

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  7. Dave Haynie

    As a good photographer in action events, particularly that close to a crowd, you need to have acute situational awareness — particularly given that you’re probably looking through a lens much of the time.

    There was an event similar to this back in college. At CMU, we had an annual Spring Carnival event officially named “Sweepstakes”, or as everyone called it, “Buggy”. A CMU buggy looks like a torpedo mounted on wheels, with an odd-looking tail that’s actually the “push bar”. A relay of runners push the buggies up a hill, they free roll down a long hill, then get pushed up another hill toward the finish line. See http://cmubuggy.org/reference/What_is_buggy%3F

    So, my fraternity’s #4 buggy, “Slow Death”, was headed up hill in its usual last place. A photographer had been on the sideline, saw the other two buggies pass, and stepped out into the first lane to get a shot. He didn’t stand a chance against Slow Death, he was clobbered. The driver lost control and ran off the course, but wasn’t hurt… Slow Death was indestructable. I was in charge of that buggy the next year, painted a flaming skull on it and a place place with “notches” for people taken out. Eventually, some other good buggies replaced it, and they retired it by tossing it off the Fraternity roof. Wasn’t really hurt much by the three story fall…

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  8. Daniel Lee

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it the people who hosted the event who are legally liable? The crowd control should have kept him back, behind the barriers were he couldn’t get in the way. Obviously it is somewhat his fault, although I don’t know if he should be legally responsible.

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    • Thomas Horton

      I think the event organizers share some of the responsibility and they will probably implement some changes the next time.

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    • Daniel Thullen

      Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia was 163km (101+ miles) the organizers cannot be expected to erect barriers the entire length of the course to protect the riders against ignorant people. This is a race that has been competed annually since 1909. The negligence is with the photographer, not the organizers.

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  9. Emilio Savov

    Yeah I think that just because of one dumb photographer, they need to make all us responsible photographers shoot from the other hill…….sheeeeeesh!!! Admit it guys, this photog was a fool, he did cause an accident because he was foolish and didn’t took time to read a little about what he was going to shoot. And come on, he is an camera store owner or something…do you seriously think it was his first shoot there? Sorry but I can’t sympathize to photographers who ruin the whole show and the image of other photographers. There are rules and we should obey them.

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    • Thomas Horton

      And unfortunately, you can’t have a rule that says that dumb photographers have to stand back but smart photographers can stand up front. There has to be one rule for everyone.

      Idiots like this photographer will make the rules address the lowest denominator. That means that smart photographers will be treated as if they were idiots like this idiot and be forced behind more barriers.

      Photographers, sometimes we are our worst enemy.

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  10. Richard Olender

    I think there needs to be a buffer zone. But as I pointed out the other day, if a cyclist loses control and crashes into the spectator, can he sue? I doubt it.
    Its up to the organizer to keep everyone safe IMO

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    • Thomas Horton

      It would depend on whether the cyclist acted negligently. Did he act in a way that demonstrated indifference to the safety of other people. Did he intentionally break any of the rules.

      If the answer to these and other similar question is yes, then yes the cyclist would be held liable.

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    • Richard Olender

      Did the photographer Intestinally break the rules?
      I would be the first one to say that people need to take responsibility for their actions but I think that this was just an accident

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    • Thomas Horton

      How do you accidently lean over a barrier? It takes some effort to do so. It looked pretty intentional to me.

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    • Richard Olender

      Intentional means that he intended to lean over and interfere and injure the cyclists
      I don’t believe that to be the case therefore it was not intentional

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  11. Doug Davis

    There should be a barrier I agree. I mean, most concerts I have been to have barriers from the crowd to the stage. Just to be safe, space it out.

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    • Daniel Thullen

      No amount of barriers will protect people from their own ignorance. Photographers should understand their subject.

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  12. Grant Beachy

    I shoot basketball games occasionally from courtside, and they don’t have to set up a barrier for me to stay off the court. Part of cycling is the close contact, and any photographer who shoots should understand that. I’m all for photographers being protected, but in this case I feel that the cyclist has a valid complaint.

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    • Tobias Roybal

      But typically in basketball, if your are not the official photographer (like this photographer in the race was not) then you are supposed to stay in the bleachers or risk getting asked to leave. For a professional photog, you know the rules and expect to abide or they choose another photog who does.

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    • Grant Beachy

      True. I’m not sure barriers are really that realistic for a 100 mile stage, but education would maybe help. It’s a sad situation regardless, but I still think the photographer should be responsible for understanding how the race works and position himself accordingly.

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  13. Nashaine Johnson

    I think it was just a simple accident. I can say the photographer was in a bad place but all in all it was an accident. I feel bad for all who were involved. I just hope that there are precautions so it does not happen again. From what I get many of us are just too quick to throw the guy under a bus for the mishap.
    With that said I hope none of us ever make mistakes.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Injuring people, some seriously and disrupting an international competition is a bit more than an accident.

      Spilling my diet coke is an accident. Sticking a camera/lens over a barrier in the middle of a bike race is a bit more than an accident.

      There comes a point when an accident becomes negligence. I think this photographer went far past a simple accident.

      ” I hope none of us ever make mistakes.”

      I for one would never act in such an irresponsible manner with a disregard for the safety of people around me and put my camera over a barrier in the middle of a bike race.” I am sure that most of us would never do that.

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  14. Lissette Garcia

    I am trying to sympathize with the photographer but just can’t. How he could blatantly disregard his own safety and that of the racers. Also, I can’t seem to comprehend why he was still shooting with a telephoto lens when the cyclists were so close. Unfortunately, this guy is going to ruin it for all the other photographers who are nowhere near as careless as him. Everyone loses.

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  15. Kevin Nguyen

    I just Google “Rules of Engagement: How to Argue on the Internet” and stick with Rule #5: Admit you’re wrong.

    http://tay.kotaku.com/rules-of-engagement-how-to-argue-on-the-internet-1538517381

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  16. Steinar Knai

    Anybody who knows bicycle racing understands that:
    1. In the final sprint the racers use all of the road and any argument that the rider rode too close to the barrier is just nonsense and ignorance.
    2. There are not enough police and security officials in the world to stop people from being stupid and irresponsible.
    Irresponsibility very often carries sanctions and this photographer should be liable, both civilly and criminally for causing damage to other persons and to the organisation, so yes, sue him for all it’s worth.
    Photographers are not exempt from normal requirements of attention and care.

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    • Tobias Roybal

      So amusement parks should not worry about making sure their barriers are not Far enough for the folks that reach over the barrier with their hands just to have them taken off due to a roller coaster being too close? if race folks were concerned they should have built a second barrier. These things are going to happen, people sticking their hands out, they are dumb, but coordinators should know that is going to happen and should do something to prevent it.

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    • Daniel Thullen

      Well said Steinar. Anyone with a passing interest in cycling would know that in cycling, whether on a road course or a sprint, the cyclists utilize the entire roadway. A good photographer would have done a little research on the subject they were shooting, in this case cycling, before putting themselves in the middle of one of the most prestigious cycling competitions in the world. I recently shot a local USA Cycling sanctioned event and even those riders were frequently right near the barrier. Every photographer there knew to lean back as the riders approached. You’re 2nd point is right on!

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  17. Kevin Nguyen

    IMO, the event organizers should take on the responsibility for the safety of both the Viewers/Photographers and the Racer. Poor planning and setting cause the accident or waiting to happen again. The event organization should take the heat.

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    • Steinar Knai

      Right, so the Boston bomber should go free? Why did the organizers not stop him from placing his bomb? Not quite analogous , because there was criminal intent , but close enough if one listens to you.
      Individuals are responsible for their acts and it is too easy to blame someone else; the state or the organizers.

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    • Drew Valadez

      Steinar nailed it.

      Why can’t people take responsibility for their own actions? Should the event organizers set up a second barrier to prevented this? Should their of been staff or security going around and telling spectators not to lean over so far? Or should they just outright say no photography (DSLRs especially) allowed to events for the safety of the cyclist? If the later, then we hear moaning and groaning about how they don’t allow photography and wah wah wah…

      This event hurt the photography community, thanks to this simple careless mishap. It was small and we probably have done similar or worse but this one is where the consequences actually happened.

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    • Michael Old

      @Steinar – Really bad analogy.
      This photographer was negligent, without criminal intent, it was an accident. it would be the same as a person leaning out to get a better view as a rider goes by and knocking him over.
      A double barrier would keep both the riders and the public safer. there have been several incidents where riders have been interfered with, both accidentally and deliberately. A 50 cm gap would probably be all you would need

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  18. Jason Markos

    Doesn’t a lot depend on whether he was there in a professional capacity?

    If he was there simply as a member of the public, taking photographs for personal benefit, isn’t it just a really unfortunate accident? If a regular member of the public accidentally dropped something like a bag over the fence resulting a pile up, would that person be liable to be sued?

    To reverse it, if one of the cyclist rode to close to the barrier and broke a spectators arm by crashing, should they be liable to be sued too?

    I’ve little doubt the photographer was at fault, and I can only imagine what the cyclist is feeling… I just question whether we should continue to encourage this litigious approach to life.

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    • Thomas Horton

      The only difference would be who to sue. If he was working for a company, the company would probably be named in the lawsuit (deep pockets), while if he was just an armature photographer, he would be the focus of the lawsuit.

      Other than that, I don’t see how his capacity (professional or amateur) would or even should make a difference.

      While I agree that there are frivolous lawsuits out there, I don’t think this one would be considered one. We have multiple injuries (one pretty serious) as well as a disruption of a significant sporting competition.

      “To reverse it, if one of the cyclist rode to close to the barrier and broke a spectators arm by crashing, should they be liable to be sued too?”

      If the cyclist exercised poor judgment and disregard for the safety of the spectator as well as intentionally and deliberately bypassed a barrier, then yes, I feel the cyclist would be liable. These are the factors that differentiate between an accident and negligence.

      It is difficult. In many jurisdictions, the courts use “what would a prudent person have done” as a threshold. That, of course, is open to interpretation.

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    • Drew Valadez

      I can’t imagine why the cyclist needs to focus on spectators or employees in a situation like this. His mindset is to try and stay upright and pass other opponents as quickly as possible. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to be juggling spectators and photographers as well, that should be up to the discretion of the photographer, amateur or professional, or the spectator.

      Why can’t people take accountability for their own actions? The photographer was 100% in the wrong. Do we really need to have more restrictions on every little thing we do that now we need an additional barrier? Why can’t people respect the initial barrier that is there or is that too much personal responsibility for people?

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    • Marc W.

      “If a regular member of the public accidentally dropped something like a bag over the fence resulting a pile up, would that person be liable to be sued?”

      Accidents, even negligent accidents can have blame. If someone drops something because they can’t hold onto their own crap, it’s still their fault.

      Next time, I’ll just jump out in front of the riders, you know, because they couldn’t sue me. =/

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  19. Thomas Horton

    Unfortunately, there needs to be a better barrier. Either a higher fence or a separate barrier buffer zone. If photographers are unwilling to take precautions to ensure they don’t interfere with events, the event organizers will have to take on that responsibility.. .to the detriment of the other smart observers.

    I think this photographer was being negligent and exercised a disregard for the safety of the participants when he leaned over the barrier and introduced a heavy solid object (camera/lens) into the path of the participants. I don’t think this action would pass the “prudent person” test.

    When people fail to use judgment, there are consequences. When these consequences result in injury to others, the consequences get, rightfully, more harsh.

    Photographers need to understand that they can’t have such a disregard for the safety of others. Talking to photographs, evidently did not get the point across. Perhaps it is time to start holding photographers liable for their judgment decisions.

    I frankly do not have a lot of sympathy for this photographer.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Makes sense to me.. I don’t get why the crowd is right up to the cyclist. Seems dangerous? Why not, at the very least, have a small platform elevate the crowd slightly where the crowd is so close to the road, or have a double barrier as a buffer between the crowd and cyclist.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Probably because the majority of spectators have the maturity to stay within the barrier and enjoy watching the event.

      Unfortunately, idiots like this photographer dictate the safety rules that will end up adversely affecting the mature spectators enjoyment.

      Safety precautions need to be at the lowest denominator. This photographer represented the lower denominator quite nicely.

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