Yate war veteran seriously injured in Dakar Rally crash
A WAR veteran from Yate is among three men who have been seriously injured in a crash in South America whilst taking part in a charity rally.
Lee Townsend, who served in the first Gulf War, Bosnia and the Falklands conflict, has been badly injured in a head-on collision in Peru.
He was taking part in the Dakar Rally, widely regarded as the world’s toughest rally, which left Lima on Saturday.
Mr Townsend, a former engineer with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was acting as team mechanic for the Race2Recovery team, made up of injured soldiers who were raising money for Armed Forces charities.
Two other members of the team, 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 retired Army Major John Winskill, 42, the team logistics expert, who is from Durrington, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, have also been injured in the crash.
Two other people dead are reported to have died in the accident, which happened yesterday morning.
A spokesman for the Race2Recovery team said the three injured men were travelling in a support vehicle when the crash happened.
They have been transferred to a local hospital and were later flown by aircraft to another hospital in Lima where they are said to be ''stable and conscious'' with injuries described as ''non-life-threatening''.
Their families have been informed of the accident by other team members.
The crash happened when their vehicle, a Land Rover Defender, was travelling in convoy on day five of the rally with other support vehicles in the Peruvian town of Tacna, near the Chilean border.
It is understood that two other vehicles were involved in the accident and two people received fatal injuries.
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.''
He 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,'' the captain added.
The 28-strong team Race2Recovery team is competing in the 15-day rally across 9,000 kilometres of mountain and desert in Peru, Argentina and Chile.