Island's festival of speed leaves trail of deaths: The Isle of Man is visited by 30,000 motorcycle racing fans each year, but many never return home

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The Independent Online
URGENT talks between the Isle of Man highways authorities and the police are scheduled after a TT race week which has left 11 dead, 10 of them motorcycle fans.

Another fatality on this 37-mile course yesterday has officially made 1993 the blackest in the 86-year history of the races.

Inquests have already started on the 10 young men and one woman who lost their lives.

An inquiry has been promised into the race meeting by the David North, the Manx highways minister

More than 30,000 fans arrive annually for what the local tourist board bills as a festival of speed. This year the visitors brought 12,000 motorcycles with them to the 227-square mile island.

The TT course runs over the island's main roads, which are closed to the public during races.

In keeping with the tradition set since the first TT race in 1907, the fans constantly lap the circuit taking advantage of the absence of an overall speed limit.

Also tragically in keeping with recent years, some of the fans pay the ultimate price for the TT experience.

On narrow country roads crammed with thousands of high-powered machines, collisions are inevitable. The first of these happened last Friday when 35-year-old Shane Lyons from Dublin became the first victim of the annual meeting.

An inquest was told that he rode his 750cc machine around Handley's Corner on the northern section of the course at 130mph.

He crossed to the wrong side, smashed head-on into a tipper truck and the bike disintegrated. Such was the force, the truck was knocked over a bank and down through the roof of a house.

Police report that many accidents are caused by continental riders forgetting where they are and suddenly switching to the right-hand side of the road.

Two of the dead men were German, and another German has been charged with killing a 24-year-old Newcastle doctor and his girlfriend, a nurse, through reckless driving.

The Isle of Man Constabulary said yesterday that foreign misunderstandings had become a serious problem.

Thousands of German-language signs saying 'Immer Links' (Keep Left) were being ignored by those they were aimed at.

A police spokesman, Inspector Dudley Butt, said: 'Some continental visitors do seem to suffer memory losses.

'In certain panic situations they automatically go for what is to them their safe side, the right.

'I've spoken to several German and French visitors and they confirm that they do pull right when under pressure.'

Insp Butt said there was also the problem of modern machines being too big and fast for riders to handle in the TT setting.

'The speeds they achieve are frightening - quite horrendous,' he added.

'The majority of people do abide by the rules of the road, but a sizeable majority threaten their own lives and those of others.'

Chief Constable Robin Oake, has pledged to ensure no one breaks the law. But he confesses to a love of the races and does not want to dampen enthusiasm for them.

The police are not joining calls for speed restrictions, saying they would be impossible to enforce. Nor is the highways authority. David North said that whatever limit was set would be broken.

But Bruce Hannay, the highways expert charged with safety on the island, said he would be arranging meetings with police as soon as they had details from the 11 inquests.

'We are as saddened and worried about this as everyone else,' he added. 'It's a matter of grave public concern.'

(Photographs omitted)