A British mountain biker was shot and killed by a hunter in France this weekend, raising concerns over safety in outdoor spaces where riders and guns mix.
Marc Sutton was riding on a popular wooded trail near Montriond, a town in the French Alps near the Swiss border, on Saturday when a 22-year-old hunter shot him dead in what appears to have been an accident. Sutton, 34, reportedly died instantly, while the hunter went into “deep shock” and was taken to a hospital.
Authorities did not release the hunter’s name, though reports indicate that he was part of a small group of hunters organized by a local club. The local prosecutor opened an investigation into an “aggravated manslaughter” charge, for which the hunter could face trial and possible jail time, though he hasn’t been arrested yet.
Two weeks ago, the Guardian reports, another young hunter was sentenced to a year in jail for mistakenly shooting and killing a trail runner in the same region. According to BBC, more than 20 people have died in hunting mishaps in France over the past three years.
It’s not entirely clear what happened at the scene on Saturday. The prosecutor told reporters that Sutton “couldn’t be confused with game” since he wore a brightly colored helmet and clothing. Still, it’s possible the hunter mistook him for an animal, or didn’t check to make sure his line of fire was clear around and beyond his target.
Last fall, a 27-year-old mountain biker was shot and wounded in New Hampshire when a hunter, aiming for a deer, failed to notice her in the background. According to the “four rules” for gun safety, a quasi-formal system developed by firearms expert Jeff Cooper and commonly accepted among gun enthusiasts, shooters should always “be sure of [their] target and what is beyond it.”
After Sutton’s death, the mayor of Montroind announced a temporary ban on hunting in the region. Occasionally deadly hunting accidents have been a cause of local debate for years. Some groups have called for more permanent bans or stricter regulations, such as increased no-hunting zones and time restrictions, to prevent future deaths.
Originally from Wales, Sutton had been living in the nearby resort town of Les Gets. A chef, he owned a private catering business and small restaurant with his girlfriend. He was well known in the area as an passionate snowboarder and mountain biker.
“This is a very tight-knit expat community and we are all deeply shocked,” Amie Henderson, a friend and and neighbor of Sutton’s, told the Telegraph. “There is anger, too, because every year there are hunting accidents.”
Alice Gregr, another local, issued a statement on behalf of Sutton’s friends that read, “He was never happier than on his snowboard or mountain bike and he knew the pistes and trails of Morzine like the back of his hand. We are trying to take peace in the fact he died doing what he loved the most.”
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