THREE British members of the Race2Recovery team competing in the Dakar Rally in South America have been badly injured in a road traffic accident, it was confirmed early today. (Thursday)
Their vehicle, a Land Rover Defender (a team support vehicle not a race car) was involved in a head-on collision while travelling in convoy on Day 5 of the challenge with other support vehicles in the town of Tacna, in Peru near the Chilean border.
It is understood that two other vehicles were involved in the accident and two people received fatal injuries and others were injured.
The three Race2Recovery members are Justin Birchall, 40, a team driver and civilian volunteer from Burnley, Lancashire, 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, from Yate near Bristol; and retired Army Major John Winskill, aged 42, the team logistics expert from Durrington, near Salisbury, Wilts.
The men were transferred to a local hospital and later flown from Tacna by an Antonov aircraft to hospital in Lima where they are said to be ‘stable and conscious.” Their injuries were described as “non-life-threatening.” Their families have been informed of the accident by other team members.
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.”
Captain Harris said that the Team had unanimously agreed to continue the challenge with the two remaining Wildcat vehicles.
“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 accident is being investigated by the local police in Peru and the team is being supported by the race organisers.
The Race2Recovery team consists of four Wildcat race vehicles and additional support vehicles. The team is made up of British and US servicemen who have been severely injured and lost limbs in conflict and civilian volunteers.