Luca Wackermann and Etienne van Empel (both Vini Zabu – KTM) were caught up in a freak crash during Stage 4 at the Giro d’Italia after barriers were blown across their path.

Reports suggested that gusts from a low-flying helicopter had propelled the barriers into the road, with television pictures showing the riders stricken on the tarmac towards the end of Monday’s trip from Catania to Villafranca Tirrena.

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Wackermann was taken to hospital where it was confirmed he had a concussion, multiple facial injuries, including a fractured nose, and a suspected broken vertebrae. He will stay in hospital overnight and will not start Stage 5.

Van Empel managed to finish the stage in last place, some 13 minutes down on winner Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).

"The helicopter was flying too low, the movement of the air blew up the barriers. Wackermann was sent to the hospital, he was barely conscious," Vini Zabu team boss Angelo Citracca told RAI.

Meanwhile, Van Empel took to social media to confirm he was fine, aside from "some small cuts on my fingers".

The Dutchman spoke to Eurosport ahead of Stage 5, saying: "I'm feeling a little bit bruised. But I’m lucky to get away without serious injury.

"I don’t really know how it happened, just that barriers were blown onto the road and I was on the ground before I knew it. From what I’ve heard, there was a helicopter flying too low and it caused a big gust of wind that blew the barriers into our group."

Van Empel on helicopter incident - 'I was lucky to get away without serious injury'

However, an unnamed source spoke to the BBC on Wednesday and suggested that it may not have been a helicopter at fault.

"The barriers were well tied together and in that moment the TV helicopter was flying over the finish. An external factor could have moved them".

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