Another child killed in Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally suffered its third fatality in six days on Saturday but the gruelling event’s race director insisted it’s as safe as it’s possible to make it.

A 12-year-old boy died after being hit by an assistance lorry on the 14th and penultimate stage as the two-week race headed to the Senegalese capital.

On Friday, Boubacar Diallo (10) ran into the path of a competing car in Guinea and was killed while, on Monday, Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott died after crashing his machine.

“The death of spectators is extremely painful and in those areas where a lot of work has been done to cut out the risks,” said race director Etienne Lavigne.

“Accidents on the course are different. The people sum up the dangers. They are involved in a sport full of risks and therefore they know the risks they are taking.”

In the 2005 race, there were two deaths amongst competitors—both motorcyclists—while Saturday’s tragedy represented the 10th time a spectator had been killed in the rally.

There had also been major security worries before Friday’s death.

Around 20 000 people had welcomed the return of the race to Guinea for the first time in 10 years and motorcyclist Ludivine Puy fell off his machine at the 13km mark as he tried to avoid a child who had crossed onto the course.

Then, just moments later, dozens of spectators wandered onto the track between two vehicles.

The deaths have again raised questions over whether or not the marathon event should cross areas of Africa where large groups of spectators gather to watch the action.

“It’s been a dozen years since we have had a child death on the race,” said Lavigne.

“We have taken a lot of measures to improve security, we send out vehicles at the start of the stages and we are always sending out information but an accident is always possible on this type of terrain.”

Lavigne said Saturday’s victim was amongst a group of children who crossed the track of the 14th stage.

“I am profoundly sad about this, because this isn’t what the Dakar is about.
It’s a sporting event involving countries which welcome us and with whom we work hard on security,” he said.

Despite the latest death, there were no plans to cancel the race which concludes in Dakar on Sunday.

“The Senegalese authorities insist that the Dakar continues as always with a podium finish and the prize presentations because this is a national event in Senegal.” - AFP

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