Published on 10 Jan 2013

Tragedy touches service veterans’ Paris – Dakar Rally bid

The Peruvian town of Tacna, near the Chilean border is the point at which the world’s most gruelling motor race moves from the sand and dunes of northern Peru, to rocky roads and rolling hills.*

It was 9.30 at night, and in that part of the world, even in high summer, it would have been dark for hours.

A car containing three British nationals was driving as part of a convoy – the last of five vehicles in the support unit for Race2Recovery – a team of wounded former service personnel raising money for other injured soldiers.

But this last car never made its destination. It hit another car – a local car.

The three Brits were badly hurt, and airlifted to hospital in Lima, but they are OK. Sadly two people in the other car died.

Details of the accident are sketchy. The rest of the convoy didn’t get a good view.

But we do know that driver Justin Birchall, a civilian volunteer, Lee Townsend, a mechanic and Gulf and Falklands Wars veteran and John Winskill, team logistics expert and retired Army major, are all stable, conscious, and not suffering life-threatening injuries.

Justin Birchall began the rally driving one of Race2Recovery’s competition cars, but the vehicle suffered an irreparable mechanical failure and was retired after stage four.

Channel 4 News interviewed Justin Birchall’s navigator at the beginning of the rally – James Blake’s report is here:

* since 2009 the rally – originally from Paris to Dakar – has taken place in South America due to security considerations in north Africa.

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