Dakar rally team members seriously injured in fatal crash

Salisbury Journal: John Winskill, left, with fellow team member Gareth Paterson John Winskill, left, with fellow team member Gareth Paterson

A RETIRED army major from Durrington has been badly injured in a crash in which two people died while taking part in the Dakar Rally in aid of Tedworth House Recovery Centre.

Logistics expert Maj John Winskill, 42, is said to be stable and conscious after being airlifted to hospital yesterday following the head-on collision involving three vehicles.

Maj Winskill was part of the support crew for the Race2Recovery team, which is hoping to be the first disability team to complete the gruelling 15-day, 9,000km challenge across South America.

Two other British team members were also injured in the crash, which happened in the town of Tacna, Peru, near the Chilean Border yesterday while they were travelling in convoy with other support vehicles.

Justin Birchall, 40, a team driver and civilian volunteer from Burnley, Lancashire, whose Wildcat vehicle retired earlier in the race, and former Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and Gulf War and Falklands war veteran Lee Townsend, a team mechanic, from Yate near Bristol, are also being treated in hospital for serious injuries.

The injuries sustained by all three men are not thought to be 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.”

Capt 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.

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