Wounded Vets Among Injured in Fatal Dakar Crash

Wounded Vets Among Injured in Fatal Dakar Crash

Just the Facts:
  • A crash involving two taxis and a Dakar Rally support truck has killed two people and injured three military veterans, marring the 2013 Dakar Rally.
  • The support truck was part of the Road2Recovery team, which includes disabled military veterans from the U.S. and Britain.
  • The fatalities were passengers in a taxi that collided with the support truck.

TACNA, Peru — A non-racing collision killed two people and injured three military veterans competing in the 2013 Dakar Rally with the Race2Recovery team Wednesday.

Race2Recovery, with backing from the British royal family, was described by the New York Daily News as "the first group of disabled veterans" to compete in the Dakar. Competition was supposed to be therapeutic for the former U.S. and British soldiers and Marines, but it turned tragic when a support truck for the team's racing vehicles was involved in a wreck with two taxis.

A spokesperson for Race2Recovery said the truck and one of the taxis hit head-on near the border between Peru and Chile. The second taxi overturned several times, according to reports, as the driver attempted to avoid being involved in the crash.

Officials said two people in the first taxi were killed.

Three Race2Recovery team members were aboard the support truck. Justin Birchall, a British national civilian, was a driver for one of the team's three Land Rover QT Wildcat vehicles which was already eliminated from competition. Mechanic Lee Townsend and logistics expert John Winskill, both British army veterans, were the others on board. All three suffered injuries described as non-life-threatening. They were taken to a hospital in Lima.

The support truck was traveling in convoy with five other support vehicles for competitors in the 5,000-plus-mile rally from Lima, Peru, to Santiago, Chile. The event began January 5 and will conclude January 19.

The Dakar, originally held in Europe and Africa, is made up of off-road competitive stages plus drives over public roads from stage to stage. The race was well known as the Paris-Dakar rally, with vehicles traveling from the French capital to Dakar, Senegal, on the Atlantic Coast of North Africa.

The event was canceled in 2008 because of threats of terrorism and has been staged in South America each year since then.

Cars, heavy trucks, quads and motorcycles compete in the race. Last year, a motorcycle competitor was fatally injured in a crash.

Edmunds says: Violent tragedy is, unfortunately, nothing new to the Road2Recovery veterans, such as driver Mark Zambon, a U.S. Marine staff sergeant who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan. Team captain Tony Harris said the remaining two race vehicles will continue in the event.

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