A VETERAN cyclist killed in a collision with a car on the Itchen Bridge in Southampton has been hailed a "figurehead" of the cycling community.

Derek Witt, 60, from Swanwick, was among four riders crossing the bridge on Wednesday evening when he was struck by an oncoming Peugeot 406 car. He died at the scene.

Fellow cyclist, 32-yearold Peter Sneddon, from Whiteley, suffered "serious and extensive" injuries to his legs and chest. He was last night in a "serious but stable condition".

Both men were married with families.MrWittwas also a grandfather.

The cyclists, part of the Woolston-based DHC racing team, were heading away from Southampton and approaching the top of the bridge at about 8.45pm when the dark-coloured car crashed into them.

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Team manager and club founder Dave Harding, 41, who was ahead of Mr Witt, of Swanwick Lane, said he heard the car slide and a loud bang and rushed back to the aid of his team mates.

"We're all devastated.

The whole community will be devastated. They were both well-known.

"Derek was the nicest man you could ever want to meet. He was full of experience and won so many races in his day.

"Pete was one of the most dedicated team members.

He's only been riding his bike for a couple of years but was doing do well. I'm absolutely gutted."

Fellow team member Luke Webber said: "It's a complete shock. Derek was a veteran of the scene. Everyone knew him. He had been doing it for 40 years. He was known by everyone as a figurehead."

The cyclists were returning from Calshot velodrome where they had been filmed to document the popularity of the sport because of the Olympics.

Mr Webber added: "We all ride the bridge quite often. You don't expect it to happen when you have wide lanes and cycle lanes."

Julian Gee, chairman of the Sotonia cycle club, the largest in area, said: "Our condolences go out to their families. It's a tragedy whenever a cyclist gets killed and is a reminder to us all how vulnerable we are on the roads."

Police were yesterday quizzing several people arrested in connection with the collision.

They were being held at police stations across Hampshire.

The bridge was closed for six hours to allow for an investigation of the scene and recovery of the vehicles. The collision, which happened in wet weather, damaged the northern wall of the bridge.

Seven ambulances and two doctors attended, with 20 police officers, 12 police cars and firefighters.

In addition to the cyclists three other people were injured and taken to Southampton General Hospital. A 37-year-old man, thought to be the car driver, was admitted with chest pains and breathing difficulties. A rear-seat passenger, a 19-year-old man, suffered breathing difficulties and a 34-yearold woman suffered facial and chest injuries.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Contact Inspector Tony Browne from the road deaths investigation team at Eastleigh police station quoting Operation Chancellor on 0845 045 45 45 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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