BRUSSELS, March 22, 2022 (AFP) - The driver of a car that killed six people when it ploughed into a crowd of carnival-goers in Belgium has been charged with manslaughter, the defence lawyer told local media Tuesday.
The lawyer said the suspect named as Paolo F. was remanded in custody by a judge at an overnight hearing, while the passenger in the car was charged with failing to assist the wounded and released on bail.
"We are not dealing with a charge of murder or assault and battery as requested by the prosecution," Frank Discepoli, the driver's lawyer, told RTL radio.
"I think that the judge, after analysing the elements of the file, was able to realise that we were dealing with absolutely accidental facts."
Prosecutors told broadcaster RTBF late on Monday that the driver had been found to be "lightly intoxicated" after an alcohol breathalyser test.
The driver and passenger were arrested at dawn on Sunday in the immediate aftermath of a crash that killed six people and left 10 people seriously injured, shocking the nation.
According to media reports, the two men are cousins, 32 and 34 years old, who were returning from a disco.
Officials said they are from La Louviere, a former coal-mining town which includes the village of Strepy-Bracquegnies where the tragedy occurred.
The crash occurred at around 5:00 am (0400 GMT), when the vehicle rammed into a group of people, many dressed up for the carnival.
The tragedy has caused consternation in Belgium, where street parades are common during the season of Lent, a tradition that was making its return after being interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.