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Family’s grief at cyclist tragedy
Published 30/07/12

THE family of a cyclist killed in an accident with a car in Stonor say they can’t describe how much she meant to them.

Denisa Perinova, 21, suffered head injuries and broken ribs in the crash, which happened as she was cycling with her boyfriend Ben Pontin along the B480.

Police said her bicycle collided with his machine, causing her to fall into the path of a Mini which was overtaking cyclists on the other side of the road.

The tragedy has led to calls for the forthcoming Challenge Henley event, which uses the road, to be rerouted.

Two ambulances and the air ambulance were sent to the scene and medics found the café waitress unconscious and fitting. She was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and later transferred to the intensive care unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where she died on Sunday — a week after the accident.

Miss Perinova, who came from the Czech Republic, had lived in Henley and worked at the Bloc Brazillian café in Market Place for two years.

Friends and work colleagues visited her in hospital and were joined by her parents, Jirka and Martina, who flew from the Czech Republic to be at her bedside.

Mr Pontin, who lived with Miss Perinova in Henley, released a statement on behalf of the family, saying: “Words just can’t describe how sad it is to lose Denisa.

“Her parents and I can only say that this tragic accident has taken from us the love, light and joy that Denisa shared with us every day.”

The café has been inundated with well-wishers. On Monday, the business was closed as a mark of respect and a note was put on an A-board informing customers what had happened to “beloved Denisa”.

Her friends and colleagues released a statement saying: “Our friend Denisa is gone but will never be forgotten. We feel so lucky and privileged to have had her in our lives. Things will never be the same again but her smile and great warmth will stay with us forever.”

On Tuesday, Mr Perinova visited the café and had a coffee and chatted to his daughter’s friends.

Director Oliver Gervaise-Jones said: “He was just the nicest guy and I am not just saying that. He was obviously incredibly upset and on edge but he kept himself so composed.

“He had some fantastic anecdotes about when Denisa was younger and said that she had a 10-year-old brother.

“Through all the emotion and upset, he was still smiling at the memory of her and I thanked him and Martina for giving the world Denisa as she touched all our lives.”

Mr Gervaise-Jones said customers had suggested naming a coffee or a sandwich after her. A framed picture of the waitress will be hung on the wall behind the counter with the date of her birth and death.

The café has placed a collection tin on the counter and so far has raised more than £700. Staff wanted to put the money towards the cost of flying Miss Perinova’s body back to the Czech Republic for her funeral but her family insisted it is spent on a celebration of her life.

Mr Gervaise-Jones said: “Denisa’s father didn’t want it spent on something so mundane. He wanted us to spend it in some way to celebrate her life.

“Maybe the town council would allow us to pay for a plaque to go on one of the wooden benches — that would be nice.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said he would happily agree to a plaque.

“There is a bench that is almost directly opposite Bloc,” he said. “That would be wholly appropriate and I would have no hesitation in consenting. It would be a nice gesture and a tangible way of remembering one of the staff.”

Meanwhile, a tribute cycle ride will take place this Sunday, starting at 10am from the café and finishing at the accident site.

Organiser Tom Sturgess, of the Gruppo Sportivo Henley cycle club, said: “I did not know her but as a frequent cyclist who rides through the Stonor Valley, I have had my share of close shaves with cars.”

Meanwhile, organisers of the Challenge triathlon event in September are under pressure to reroute the cycle section in light of the tragedy.

Simon Stracey, vice-chairman of Pishill with Stonor Parish Council, has written to Rodney Rose, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member responsible for roads, asking him to “immediately reconsider” the route.

He said: “The B480 suffers throughout its length with very fast-moving traffic, vehicles frequently reaching speeds of 50mph along some stretches.

“The residents of Lower and Middle Assendon, Stonor and Pishill all fought long and hard to have the speed limits within the hamlets reduced to 30mph but the fact remains that, on the unrestricted part of the road, the national speed limit is permissible.

“Cyclists are now arriving to practice along the triathlon route and reaching dangerously high speeds and they are frequently to be observed travelling more than two abreast and in lines of five to six, moving as a group.

“This road is not a cycle race track but a very busy and fast country road and it has a number of blind bends and the obstruction of cyclists travelling in this fashion is causing very considerable concern.

“The storm drains and the narrowness of the road are major factors governing the positioning of cyclists on the highway — they frequently are forced to travel in a central position, even when not overtaking one another.

“Motorised vehicles cannot see the cyclists until they are immediately ahead and local residents are becoming increasingly concerned at the narrow escapes that are now the norm.

“Bearing in mind the tragic accident last weekend it would seem imperative to re-evaluate the safety of the cyclists on this part of the route.

“I suggest that members of the organising committee, including yourself, visit the B480 section of the route during the weekend daytime to personally observe the frightening situation that we are now experiencing.”

Philippa Morgan, the marketing and communications manager for Just Racing, which organises Challenge Henley, said it would be inappropriate to comment.

Helen Marshall, director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that deaths on rural roads now accounted for more two-thirds of all road deaths.

She said: “If you are a cyclist, your chances of being killed on a rural road are 15 times higher than on an urban street.

“In Oxfordshire, there are about 40 deaths, 350 serious injuries and nearly 2,000 slight injuries reported on the roads every year.

“Last week, the Government launched a consultation on whether to reduce the speed limit to 40mph on minor rural roads. We would encourage people to make their views known.”

Anyone with information about the accident should call Pc Mark Gulliford on the Thames Valley Police non-emergency number of 101.

Published 30/07/12

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