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Death toll rises on Dakar Rally as motorbike competitor killed

updated 3:21 PM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
Belgium's Eric Palante at the start of the 2014 Dakar Rally in Rosario in Argentina. The Honda rider died on the fifth stage of the event.
Belgium's Eric Palante at the start of the 2014 Dakar Rally in Rosario in Argentina. The Honda rider died on the fifth stage of the event.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Motorbike competitor on Dakar Rally found dead
  • Eric Palante, 50, from Belgium competing in event for 11th time
  • Went missing on Thursday's fifth stage
  • Two local media personnel also died on same stage

(CNN) -- The Dakar Rally claimed another victim Friday, as organizers announced the death of an experienced competitor in the motorbikes section.

The body of 50-year-old Belgian Eric Palante was found at the 143km mark of the previous day's stage from Chilecito to San Miguel de Tucuman, the longest of the grueling race.

A support truck had gone in search of the rider, who had been missing overnight after the 911km marathon leg.

Read: Third death on 2013 Dakar prompts investigation

Two members of a local Argentine news team also died while following Thursday's fifth stage when their car plunged into a ravine.

Organizers of the annual event said Palante's death would be examined by a judge in the Catamarca Province of Argentina, but reported on their official website that "no alert" had been received ahead of his fatal accident.

Injured soldiers prepare for Dakar Rally

They paid tribute to the Honda rider, who was bidding for victory in the amateur motorbikes section: "He knew the race very well, and over the years his enthusiastic but serious approach had made him one of the pillars of the event.

"It is with great sadness that the organizers and the entire family of the Dakar offer their condolences to Eric's family and friends."

Read: Triple amputee takes on world's 'most dangerous' race

Palante is the 27th competitor to die in the rally since it was first staged in 1978, while more than 50 have died overall, including spectators, support crew and the media.

The marathon motor rally, for cars, motorbikes and trucks, was originally staged between Paris and Dakar in Senegal.

It was moved to South America, principally Argentina and Chile, in 2009 because of threats of terrorism.

Read: The Dakar Rally: Fear and Loathing in South America

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