Dakar Rally hit by deaths following road accident

Story highlights

  • Three Britons injured following a road traffic accident in Peru, which left two dead
  • Happened on Day Five of the rally while support vehicle was traveling with rest of team
  • The Race2Recovery teammates were flown to hospital in Lima
  • Team to continue quest to complete Dakar Rally by final stage on January 20

The Race to Dakar has been marred by injuries to three Britons after they were involved in a road traffic accident in South America, which left two others dead.

The support vehicle, a Land Rover Defender, was involved in a head-on collision in the town of Tacna, Peru, close to the Chilean border.

Two other vehicles were involved in the smash, in which two lost their lives and others were injured.

The three Race2Recovery members were taken to hospital and later flown to hospital in Lima, where they are said to be "stable and conscious". The injuries have been described as "non-life threatening".

The three men, who are part of a team of injured soldiers taking part in the challenge, were named as Justin Birchall, 40, a team driver and civilian volunteer, whose Wildcat vehicle retired earlier in the race, former Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and Gulf War and Falklands war veteran Lee Townsend, a team mechanic, and retired Army Major John Winskill, the team logistics expert.

Team leader Captain Tony Harris said: "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.

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

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"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," he said.

The Race2Recovery team is hoping to become the first disability team to complete the challenge, which takes in around 9,000 kilometers of extreme mountain and desert terrain.

The squad of 28 includes both British and U.S. service people who were wounded during combat and have missing limbs, spinal injuries and psychological injuries.

The race is scheduled to finish in Santiago, Chile on January 20.

Since the inaugural race in 1978, 25 competitors have lost their lives, while more than 50 have died overall. Only 74 of the original 182 participants made it to Dakar in the first year.

Although the race used to be held in Europe with the climax in Senegal, Africa, it was moved to South America in 2009 following threats of terrorism.