TWO PEOPLE have died and three members of the Race2Recovery team have been left injured following an accident in South America during the Dakar Rally.

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A spokesman for the team said a support vehicle in which the three team members were travelling was involved in a head-on collision in Peru.

It is understood two locals were killed in the collision. The three British men in the support vehicle were among seven people who were injured and taken to hospitals in Tacna, Peru, near the Chilean border.

The three injured 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, who is a team mechanic, and retired Army Major John Winskill, the team logistics expert from Durrington, near Salisbury.

The men were transferred to hospital and later flown from Tacna to another hospital in Lima where they are said to be “stable and conscious”.

Their injuries were described as “non-life-threatening”.

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.

Earlier this week The Ipswich Star reported that Marine Martyn Williams was taking on the massive challenge.

Royal Marine Commando Martyn Williams, of The Street, Nacton, is part of a rally team hoping to become the first ever disability group to complete the race.

Mne Williams was wounded in an explosion during a tour of Afghanistan in December 2008, which killed a close friend and injured another. He suffered a broken foot in the blast which tore through the Jackal armoured vehicle he was driving. He hopes to resume his career in the forces this year.

The Race2Recovery team began the race with four Wildcat race vehicles along with additional support vehicles but will now continue with just two race vehicles.

The team is made up of British and US servicemen who have been severely injured and lost limbs in conflict and civilian volunteers.

The rally, which began in Lima on Saturday and ends in Santiago, Chile, on 20 January, will see the team travel 5,600 miles of extreme mountain and desert terrain.

All proceeds raised by the team go to the Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre, Tidworth, Wiltshire, which is part of a Government-led initiative to help wounded and sick servicemen and women recover.

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