British cyclist dies on Bolivian mountain road

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The Independent US

A British cyclist has been killed in a crash which claimed the lives of nine people in Bolivia.

The man, named by the British Embassy in La Paz as 22-year-old Tom Austin, was involved in a collision with a Toyota Land Cruiser with 13 people inside.

The vehicle then left the road and rolled 300 feet down a rocky embankment, killing eight people inside and injuring the five others, Erbol radio reported.

Louise Taylor, vice consul at the British Embassy, said two other British cyclists were injured. She named them as Daniel Roberts, 23, and James Marshall, 22.

She said: "He died on the road between La Paz and Coroico.

"Two other British citizens were injured at the same time. They were quite minor injuries."

She said the riders were not taking part in a race as far as she was aware.

Lieutenant Colonel Agusto Angulo, head of the La Paz transit police accident division, said the accident took place just minutes after the cyclists began their tour on a paved section near a 15,400-foot Andean pass.

Mr Austin was the second British tourist to die on the notorious stretch of road, nicknamed the Highway of Death, in the past week.

The highway east from La Paz - the world's highest capital city - winds dramatically down the face of the Andes, dropping 11,800 feet in just 40 miles.

The narrow, largely dirt track earned its macabre nickname for the frequency with which Bolivian buses would plunge off its 3,300-foot cliffs, killing hundreds a year until a new paved highway opened in 2007.

But the old route's stunning vistas and hairpin turns now draw an estimated 25,000 thrill-seeking mountain bikers from around the world. At least 13 cyclists have died on the road in the past 10 years.

On Monday, Kenneth Mitchell, 56, of Fullerton, California, died when he tumbled from his bicycle and fell over a cliff along the road.

A spokesman for the accident division of the La Paz police refused to speculate on the causes of the latest accident.

"We can not give any more information at this stage," said the spokesman who declined to give any more details about the British casualties.