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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Race Deaths Spur Manslaughter Probes

BOLOGNA, Italy -- Italian magistrates have begun a manslaughter inquiry into the deaths at the San Marino Grand Prix of Formula One drivers Ayrton Senna of Brazil and Austrian Roland Raztenberger. Federico Bendinelli, managing director of the Sagis company which runs the Imola track where the deaths occurred, said Tuesday magistrates had formally advised him he was being investigated on suspicion of culpable homicide. He said similar notices were expected to be issued within hours to representatives of the Williams and Simtek race teams and the Brussels-based crash helmet manufacturer Bell. The notices are a required first step under Italian judicial procedure to give suspects the opportunity to appoint lawyers. They do not mean that charges will automatically follow. "I am not worried in the least," Bendinelli said. "All the notice means is that I will have to participate in the investigations into the deaths." Senna, three-time world champion, suffered massive head injuries Sunday when his Williams slammed into a wall on the notorious Tamburello curve at Imola's Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. He was killed 24 hours after Ratzenberger died in a crash at more than 300 kph in his Simtek during final qualifying. The deaths at the Imola event, which was also marred by injuries to mechanics and spectators in other accidents, have unleashed widespread criticism of safety standards in Formula One and the conditions on the track. Sagis said in a statement that it was confident the investigation would show it had observed all legal and sporting requirements for the race. It expressed "profound sorrow and heartfelt condolences" for the deaths. Autopsies were conducted on the Senna and Raztenberger bodies Tuesday. The Imola circuit and the drivers' cars are have been placed under judicial sequester as inquiries continue. Public prosecutor Francesco Pintor said written reports would be issued on the autopsies but, speaking of Senna, added: "There's no reason to suppose that the cause of death differs from what we already know." In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an estimated 200,000 people are expected to pay respects to Senna during the 24 hours his body will lie in state, a Sao Paulo state government spokesman said Tuesday. Two days after the fatal crash the accident continued to dominate life in Brazil, where Senna was an idol. Evening news programs were devoted almost exclusively to tributes to Senna and interviews with those who knew him. Political news was relegated to a few brief minutes at the end of programs.