Victims and their families have reacted with outrage over the decision by a Portimão judge to free the drunk-driver without a licence who ploughed into late-night revellers in Praia da Rocha in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Minutes before the collision which witnesses say sent people flying into the air “like a tsunami”, Afonso Albergaria had disobeyed two police orders to stop – forcing one of the agents to dive to safety as he continued to steer in the direction of homeward-bound crowds.
But in court on Monday, the 25-year-old supermarket worker originally from São Tomé e Príncipe broke down in tears, alleging brake failure.
The fact that the young man had not passed his driving test and was driving over the legal limit seems to have carried little weight with the judge who released him on his own recognisance to report daily to the local police station.
News channels led on people’s disgust at the news but Albergaria’s defence told the court the young man had “not intended” to drive into anyone. “He was startled by the intervention of police and even tried to brake, but he couldn’t,” Padilha de Brito explained.
Initial reports from the accident described the driver “accelerating” into the crowd, with no attempt to brake, thus Padilha de Brito told the court he will be “asking for a technical survey of the vehicle to confirm if there is any irregularity”.
Albergaria is charged with driving without a valid licence and has already been found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.78g (0.5g being the limit).
He was taken to court yesterday by police escort, and left the same way, lying down in the back seat of the patrol car and covering his face.
Again, this apparent “protection by police” after an incident that saw so many people injured and lying in the road in agony has further infuriated all those affected.
One businessman who witnessed the carnage described it as “attempted murder”.
“That man should pay for what he did as he put the lives of many people in danger,” Carlos Lopes told reporters.
As we went to press it appeared that only one of Albergaria’s victims remained in hospital. A man from Guinea. All the others, 11 men and two women between the ages of 17 and 32 had been released after treatment.