German police arrest truck driver accused in crash that killed Davide Rebellin
ROME -- Police in Germany arrested a truck driver accused in the crash in Italy last year that killed professional cyclist Davide Rebellin and were holding him pending extradition proceedings, prosecutors in both countries said.
Wolfgang Rieke is accused of road homicide and leaving the scene of a crash. Vicenza prosecutor Lino Giorgio Bruno said he was arrested in Muenster on a European arrest warrant. German authorities said he had surrendered.
Rebellin, one of cycling’s longest-serving professionals, was killed Nov. 30 during a training run near the northern Italian town of Montebello Vicentino. At the time, Italian media reported the truck that struck him hadn’t stopped. But prosecutors, citing roadside video and witness photos, said the driver stopped, got out of the cab and approached Rebellin, and then got back in the truck and left the scene.
The investigation identified the truck as belonging to a shipping firm based in Recke, Germany, and Rieke as the driver, Bruno said in a statement. After the crash, the truck continued on to its destination in Verona and returned to Germany on Dec. 3. After that, the red trailer allegedly involved in the crash was detached from the tractor and replaced with a white one with different identification plates, prosecutors said.
After authorities seized the truck, experts identified damage consistent with the collision and determined the vehicle had been cleaned with a concentrated, highly acidic detergent, prosecutors said. Inside the cab were functioning video cameras and mirrors that would have given the driver the necessary direct and indirect view of the cyclist, the statement said.
While Rebellin was found to have violated road rules requiring him to give precedence to the truck, “such a violation had no causal effect” on the crash given the amount of time between Rebellin’s violations and the crash, the statement said, citing the judge’s arrest warrant.
The suspect surrendered to authorities in Steinfurt, near Muenster, accompanied by his defense attorney, senior public prosecutor Elmar Pleus of the Hamm prosecutor general’s office told the German news agency dpa in an email.
He is currently being held in extradition custody based on a detention order issued by the local court in Rheine, Pleus told The Associated Press in an email. Pleus added that a decision by Hamm prosecutors on Italy’s extradition request was being prepared, but there was no word on how long it might take.
Emails and calls to Meunster police seeking the name and contact information for Rieke’s lawyer were not immediately returned.
Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling a month before the crash, ending a 30-year career with his final team Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek. Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.
Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.