Popular Rally stopped after fatal accident

KOCHI, AUG. 21. The 21st Popular Rally, the third round of the MAI National championship, was stopped after the fourth stage on Saturday evening after an unfortunate accident resulted in the death of a five-year-old boy.

The accident occurred on the fourth special stage, a closed 15-km forest road between Thundam and Illithode, near Malayattur, a couple of hours drive from Kochi. Driving at over 100 kmph on the stage where sheer speed matters, Team MRF's National champion V.R. Naren Kumar knocked down the boy, Boban Basil, who had accidentally strayed onto the stage route. The boy was accompanied by his father and brother.

"The rally organisers immediately activated the safety plan but the child died on way to the hospital," said the event organisers, the Kerala Auto Sports Club, this evening.

The organisers also decided to terminate the rally after today's fourth stage. The event was supposed to be a two-day event with six special stages today and three tomorrow.

The accident shook up the event which appeared to be a story of Team MRF's domination all over again, with its young Vikram Mathias (co-driver Sujith Kumar) gaining a four-second overall lead over Coimbatore's Naren Kumar (D. Ramkumar), who is also the Popular Rally's defending champion, after the third special stage.

The team's Arjun Balu (Kumar Ramaswamy) was running third. The organisers will decide later tonight about the final results and other positions.

The accident also led to a lot of confusion with a crowd gathering at the special stage while the rally was still on.

"It shook us. We didn't know what was happening. It could have resulted in a major disaster," said Arjun Balu.

Fortunately, none of the other spectators were injured, the rally was halted and the cars returned in a long convoy to Kochi. — Our Principal Correspondent