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Motorsport | Dakar Rally

Two dead, seven injured in Dakar collision



Two people were killed and seven others were injured in a head-on collision between a Dakar Rally support vehicle and a taxi near Peru's border with Chile, race organisers said on Thursday.

The incident happened at 9:30 pm local time on Wednesday (0330 GMT Thursday) 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the frontier, a statement on the race website dakar.com said.

One of two taxis hit the support vehicle head-on while a second cab overturned as its driver tried to avoid the collision.

Two people in the first taxi, including the driver, were killed and seven people, four of them Peruvian were injured.

Three of the injured, who were travelling in a Land Rover support vehicle, were British members of the Race2Recovery team which is made up of British and US servicemen who have been severely injured and lost limbs in foreign conflicts.

They were named as Justin Birchall, a team driver and civilian volunteer whose Wildcat vehicle retired earlier in the race; former Gulf War and Falklands war veteran Lee Townsend, a team mechanic; and retired Army Major John Winskill, the team logistics expert.

All three were flown by an Antonov aircraft to hospital in Lima where they were said to be "stable and conscious" with "non-life-threatening" injuries.

"Our hearts go out to the families and relatives of those who have died in this tragic accident and we offer them our condolences and sympathy," said Race2Recovery team leader Captain Tony Harris.

"Our entire team has been struck by the friendliness and support we have received from the Peruvian people since arriving for the Dakar Rally.

"The team decided before we even started that we would continue our endeavour. This is obviously a huge shock but we know that we have the blessing of the injured. They want the team to finish."

The collision came after the fifth stage of the race from Arequipa in Peru to Arica in Chile. The 8 400km event is being staged in South America with 459 vehicles.

Some 59 people, including 20 spectators, have lost their lives in the race over the years but organisers have been keen to play down the dangers.

This year, around 150 security staff as well as 60 doctors and surgeons are on hand, backed up by five helicopters and 10 medical vehicles, in case of emergencies.

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