Thursday, November 29, 2012
Chronicle of a death foretold. A dark day in Colombia's cycling history.
On July 27th, 2005, Alberto Martínez Prader and Hector Urrego entrusted their lives to god, live over the airwaves. They were covering the Vuelta a Colombia on the radio in the way that cycling has always been covered in Colombia: live, from the road, from a moving vehicle along with the peloton.
At the top of the Alto de La Linea climb, one of the two Toyota Land Cruisers belonging to RCN Radio began to malfunction. In order to ensure a timely arrival to the finish along with the riders, Urrego and Prader decided to switch vehicles. They boarded the other Land Cruiser, and continued their broadcast. It was then, due to both the high speeds, and winding descent, that Prader acknowledged just how dangerous the descent was. He admitted to being fearful ("asustadito"), but said he trusted his life to god, and to the experienced driver, who was "an expert on these descents". Then, live on the air, Prader used a chilling phrase. He said they were doing the descent "a tumba abierta". As he used it, the saying means to do something with bravery, or in a valiant fashion. But its literal meaning is much darker. It means "open grave", an opening in the ground that awaits a body.
With only three kilometers to go on the stage, the brakes on the SUV failed. This was only seconds after Prader had admitted to his fear, and made the reference to an open grave. As the brakes failed, the driver Fáber Toro, tried to downshift. But as he did so, he lost control of the vehicle, and struck a small retaining wall.
As the SUV flipped over, Prader was unable to go back into the vehicle (radio broadcasts at races in Colombia are done by announcers as they stand, protruding through oversized sunroofs, mic in hand). He was killed on impact, with the crash itself being broadcast live over the air while millions listened.
Alberto Martínez Prader was 52 years old, and a father of four.
Audio from that live broadcast can be heard below.
If you'll forgive the sudden (and perhaps crass) change in both topic and mood:
I hope Mike Sinyard doesn't like watching Seinfeld re-runs. If he does, I think Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld will be getting some strongly worded letters in the mail any day now.