Olympian charged after his car kills Briton in Athens

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The Independent Online

A member of the Danish Olympic sailing team was charged with manslaughter yesterday after the car he was driving hit and killed a British pedestrian in Athens.

A member of the Danish Olympic sailing team was charged with manslaughter yesterday after the car he was driving hit and killed a British pedestrian in Athens.

Errol Strachan, 45, who was working as a caterer during the Games in Athens, was killed instantly as he was struck while trying to cross a busy arterial road, part of which is dedicated to Olympic traffic.

Nicklas Holm, 23, a former Danish sailor of the year who is competing in the star class, was at the wheel of the car carrying a team-mate and a coach when the accident happened at 9.15pm on Thursday.

Mr Holm appeared in court yesterday and was charged with manslaughter and released without bail while he awaits the results of police blood tests for alcohol and drugs. His two passengers, a crewmate Claus Olesen and coach Thomas Jacobsen, were not charged.

The accident happened on Posidinos Avenue, a six-lane coastal road south of the capital, as the Danes were travelling to watch their women's handball team play France.

According to the Danish Olympic Committee, Mr Strachan crossed two lanes of queuing cars and entered the Olympic lane, unaware that it was used by traffic. Danish Olympic officials said that Mr Holm had "no way of foreseeing" the pedestrian or avoiding the collision and the sailor himself declared on Danish television: "I feel no guilt." Mr Holm said he was travelling at 31mph, well within the speed limit of 70kmh (44mph) which applies across the capital. Greek traffic police said yesterday that their investigation would be given added urgency because it involved an Olympian.

Mr Holm, originally from Copenhagen, is a professional sailor and member of the Royal Danish Yacht Club, where his father, a senior accountant at Deloitte & Touche, is chairman. He once smashed into a container on his father's 42ft sailing boat on his way to the European Dinghy Championships in Sweden. He took up sailing at the age of six and started racing aged nine, since when his ambition has been to win an Olympic medal.

"He is very upset," a Danish Olympic team spokesman, Morten Molholm Hansen, said. He added that the team had flown a psychologist in from Denmark to counsel Mr Holm.

The team would decide later this week if Mr Holm was fit to compete in his first race on Saturday. No one will be brought in as a substitute if he cannot compete in his star class.

Mr Molholm Hansen said the results of the blood tests had not been released but he was sure Mr Holm had not been driving under the influence of alcohol.

"We are quite sure he had not been drinking," he said. "A team official arrived at the crash scene 15 minutes after it happened and Nicklas was sober. There was no smell of drink on his breath."

Mr Strachan, an Anglo-Jamaican who is believed to be a tour guide in London, was staying in Athens for the duration of the Games. A spokeswoman for the British Embassy said: "He was a pedestrian crossing the Olympic lane on one of the main roads when he was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

"Next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance."