Italian triathletes Edith Niederfriniger and Linda Scattolin were on a training ride near Stellenbosch, South Africa when they suffered serious injuries when struck by an out of control bus on March 7.
The two women were riding down the Villiarsdorp side of the mountainous Franschhoek Pass when a bus carrying a local rugby team rolled over and struck the cyclists. Three passengers on the bus, two members of the Groendal Rugby Team and a fan, were killed and at least 26 more passengers were injured.
Photos taken after the accident showed the bikes of Niederfriniger and Scattolin severely twisted and mangled.
Niederfriniger and Scattolin were transported to separate hospitals – Niederfriniger to the Paarl Mediclinic about 20 kilometers from Stellenbosch and Scattolin to the world famous Groote Schuur Public Hospital in Cape Town. Both women were reported to be in serious but stable condition.
According to pro triathlete Jodie Swallow, a friend of both women who is living and training in Stellenbosch, Niederfriniger suffered a fractured tibia, fibula and collarbone as well as a deep laceration to her rib. Swallow wrote on Facebook that doctors were scheduled “to go into theatre … to try to clean the open fracture once again before they can plate it.”
Scattolin suffered a broken collarbone, pelvis, right arm and a dislocated hip. Alexa Cunningham, a close friend of the two women, reported that Scattolin was not speaking and was scheduled to have a second CT brain scan to determine the cause of this condition.
Cunningham reported via social media that she played for Scattolin voice notes from her parents and Niederfriniger: “She opened her eyes very wide, but then closed them and still hasn’t spoken. We are hoping to move her out of Trauma … and into ICU/HiCare. Right now we just need her to speak and for her xrays and scans to be clear for the spine and figure out why she is giving us all the silent treatment.”
Later, Cunningham reported on social media that Scattolin showed signs of improvement: “Linda is squeezing my hand tighter as time passes by and is starting to open her eyes.”
Niederfriniger, 43, is a two time Ironman champion with 10 Ironman podium finishes and an Ironman PR of 8:59:45. She is an ITU long distance silver medalist and an ETU long distance European champion. Niederfriniger also works as a triathlon coach.
Scattolin, 39, competes as an age grouper for Padovanuoto Dynamica Triathlon and finished 3rd in the 35-39 age group in the short distance event at the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Scattolin, who is known to friends by her Twitter handle Fi Xie, also won her age group at the 2013 Challenge Fuerteventura triathlon. Scattolin works as a researcher at the University of Padua in the field of forest pathology.