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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cyclist Mourned at Memorial Service

Family and friends gathered Wednesday to mourn the loss of Sian Thomas, 36, a British journalist who was killed last Thursday in a cycling accident in Siberia.

Thomas died in a collision while riding with an international group of 12 cyclists from Beijing to Paris via Moscow. The trip, which started in Beijing on May 1, was designed to boost environmental awareness.

Last Thursday, in the central Siberian city of Meriisk, Thomas was riding at the head of the group when a car traveling in the opposite direction pulled into the oncoming traffic lane to pass another vehicle. The motorist, Vladimir Solovei, saw the bikers too late. Thomas was killed instantly in the collision.

The closed-casket memorial service Wednesday took place in the Catholic church on Malaya Lubyanka Ulitsa in the center of Moscow.

The traditional service was attended by Thoma's parents, Jim and Jean Collins, and her uncle Colin Thomas, all of whom came from England, her husband, Sasha Vlasov, and several close friends. Candles adorned the coffin, and prayers were said as subdued organ music played in the background.

The service contrasted sharply with the energetic, irrepressible personality of the person mourners depicted.

"She was like a wonderful hurricane", said her former husband Rene. "She would come through and leave you in her wake and you'd be so glad she did".

As a free-lance television journalist, she helped put together several documentaries about the former Soviet Union for broadcast in Britain and beyond.

Thomas was born on July 11, 1956, in London. She attended Jesus College at Oxford University, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics.

As a designer of television show title credit sequences, Thomas began traveling to the Soviet Union frequently in the 1980s in order to get better acquainted with Soviet filmmakers. After several trips to Moscow and beyond, she decided to get involved with the actual production of political and artistic documentaries.

Thomas settled here permanently in 1989 and made more than two dozen documentaries about events and issues in the former Soviet Union, including "Red Empire", an award-winning piece that aired on the BBC.

Thoma's entry into the bicycle trip at the last minute was in character. She was a mountain-biker in excellent physical condition, and with her history of travel in treacherous places like Afghanistan, there was no doubt that she could survive the wilds of Siberia.

"She was a great adventurer", said Helen Womack, a friend of four years. "She had no feeling for danger. She was larger than life".