The death of footballer José Antonio Reyes in a car crash on Saturday stunned fans in Spain just as the country was preparing to host one of the sport’s most high-profile contests in Madrid: the Champions League final.
Reyes, who over a long career played for both Real and Atlético Madrid, Arsenal and his home team of Sevilla, was clearly well-loved.
But as tributes started flowing immediately after news of his death, including a homage at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the Spanish capital before the final kicked off, questions started to arise over the nature of the accident.
‘Speeding is worthy of criticism’
The player was driving at more than 135mph (220kmh) when the accident occurred, according to Spanish police investigators.
In the car with Reyes was his cousin Jonathan, who also died in the accident, while the third person in the player’s Mercedes Brabus was another of his cousins, Juan Manuel Calderón, who remains in a serious condition in hospital.
While a definitive picture of what caused the crash will take weeks to be finalised in a Seville court, initial police reports suggest Reyes may have lost control of his vehicle while driving at high speed on the A-376 highway between Seville and his hometown of Utrera.
As the car left the road it smashed into building material, causing the vehicle to roll several times and burst into flames. The car’s final position was 200 metres away from the point at which it left the road.
In response to the news, Spain’s Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) postponed all matches that were scheduled to be played in La Liga’s second division on Sunday out of respect for Reyes, as well as awarding him a posthumous Gold Medal.
But the police reports also led to some criticism.
Santiago Cañizares, a former Real Madrid goalkeeper, wrote on Twitter: “Driving at excess speed is worthy of criticism. There were victims other than the driver Reyes [who] does not deserve a homage as if he was a hero.”
The post by Mr Cañizares, who became a rally driver after retiring from football, received comments from users who took issue with his point of view.
He later said that he was sorry for Reyes’ death and would “pray for his soul”, but that he merely wanted people to “reflect on the mistakes we make”.
‘Breaking speed limit has terrible consequences’
The need to focus attention on the dangers of high-speed driving was also the message of Ana María Campo, the president of road safety campaign group Stop Accidentes.
“People have to realise that breaking the speed limit has terrible consequences, as in this case,” she said.
Ms Campo, whose son was killed by the driver of another car, wondered how “a young man who was so loved and admired was unaware that excess speed steals your life away”.
According to Spain’s ABC newspaper, Reyes was reported for dangerous driving on the same stretch of road in 2015 by the mayor of a village near Seville.
Jerónimo Guerrero, the mayor of El Coronil, reported the player for allegedly tailgating him at high speed before performing other risky manoeuvres to show anger at being held up.
Reyes’ two cousins regularly accompanied the player as he travelled to and from matches or training sessions, as they did on the fateful day of the accident.
The three reportedly drove from Utrera to Almendralejo, home to second-division club Extremadura, which had signed Reyes in January, and back to Seville the same morning – a round trip of around 250 miles.
Mr Calderón is believed to have survived because he was thrown clear from the passenger seat as the car rolled over, while Reyes and his other cousin Jonathan, believed to have been seated in the back, suffered fatal injuries.
According to reports, Mr Calderón may have tried to help release his cousins from the burning wreckage, and sustained burns affecting 60% of his body.
Reyes is survived by three children, two of whom he had with his widow, Noelia López.