Biker Franck Petricola died fulfilling dream of riding at Isle of Man TT races
French rider Franck Petricola died fulfilling his dream by racing at the Isle of Man TT, a friend said last night.
Described as a quiet but friendly man, Petricola's death has drawn a veil of sorrow over the much-loved sporting event for riders and fans.
He won the hearts of Ulster bike fans when he fought back from a near fatal crash at the North West 200 in 2014 to take part in last month's event.
Sports photographer Stephen Davison told the Belfast Telegraph that he had photographed the 32-year-old just minutes before he took part in the fateful TT Superbike qualifying session this week.
He was killed in an incident at Sulby Crossroads at around 7.30pm on Wednesday.
Mr Davison said: "I also took a group photograph of him and his team for a fan poster earlier that day at 2pm and he was just his usual happy, smiling self.
"I know it was his dream to take part in the Isle of Man TT after riding again at the North West.
"It leaves an awful feeling on everyone here at the event - riders, officials and fans alike.
"The biking world is a very tight-knit community and he was very well-regarded at the North West 200, particularly since he worked so hard to get back to health after the crash at last year's event."
Mr Petricola's sister and best friend were due to arrive in the Isle of Man yesterday to watch him compete, but there were no members of his family at the event yesterday.
North West 200 director Mervyn Whyte said that he feared Mr Petricola would not survive the horrific crash at last year's event.
He suffered multiple injuries in a collision with a lamppost, breaking two vertebrae, his left arm, his right elbow and right leg, several ribs and perforated his lungs, but the most serious injury was to his head.
"At one point it really was touch and go when Franck crashed in 2014. He was a lovely, quiet and likeable man," added Mr Whyte.
"Not many come out of intensive care to compete again. Afterwards he kept telling me that he was going to ride again in the North West 200, but I didn't believe that he actually would."
Former Isle of Man TT champion Phillip McCallen paid tribute to the Frenchman.
"I just knew Franck as a rider in the paddock and he was a very nice guy. I believe he had the love and the want to ride. I understand that, as we all set targets, and you want to do these things.
"But we always have at the back of our minds that we can be killed doing what we love."