Two killed in roadblock collision as French farmers widen protests

A car rammed into a roadblock put up by protesting farmers in southwestern France on Tuesday, killing a woman and her teenage daughter, and seriously injuring her husband. 

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Farmers have been blocking roads across the country in protest at what they say are deteriorating conditions in the agriculture sector.

The three occupants of the car that crashed into the barrier on a motorway in the southwestern department of Ariege were taken into police custody on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, police said.

The vehicle was travelling on the dual-lane carriageway leading to the roadblock despite it being clearly marked as closed to traffic because of the protest, Ariege prefect Simon Bertoux told reporters.

But a local prosecutor, Olivier Mouysset, said that early results of the investigation suggested that the car, carrying a couple and a friend, had not rammed the barrier intentionally.

In the dark, the car ran into a wall made of bales of straw at the roadblock, hit the three people and only came to a halt when it crashed into the trailer of a tractor, Mouysset said.

The 35-year-old woman who was killed was a member of the powerful FNSEA farmers union, which has been leading nationwide protests. 

Her 14-year old daughter was taken to hospital where she later died. The wounded husband is 40. 

‘At speed’

A police source added that the car was travelling “at speed” as it drove into the barrier. 

A test showed that the driver, a 44-year-old man, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

All three occupants of the car are Armenian nationals, Bertoux said.

The broader southwestern Occitanie region has been a focal point of farmers’ protests in recent days.

Read moreWhy French farmers are up in arms: fuel hikes, green regulation, EU directives

Farming union representatives on Monday met Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to discuss their grievances, which include low food prices, rising charges for farmers, higher fuel prices and environmental protection rules that they say are unacceptable.

Tensions have been running high, with the FNSEA announcing protests all this week and beyond if the government failed to respond to its demands.

“In the current circumstances that farming has to endure, this kind of drama is difficult to bear,” said FNSEA president Arnaud Rousseau, who first reported the incident. 

‘Nation is devastated’

At his meeting with the farming representatives on Monday evening, Attal made no immediate announcement but promised that a number of measures would be unveiled by the end of the week, according to Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau.

“The nation is devastated” by the accident, Attal said on Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter.

President Emmanuel Macron said he has asked his government “to offer concrete solutions” to the farmers’ problems.

“My thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones who are mourning them,” he said, also on X, calling Tuesday’s accident “a drama that has devastated us all”.

The FNSEA’s Rousseau said the farmers’ mobilisation would “not be affected by this drama” and that “the struggle continues”.

Several motorways across the country were blocked by tractors on Tuesday.

Protesting farmers at roadblocks observed minutes of silence for those killed in the accident

(AFP)

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