JANUARY 11, 2005
Dakar claims two lives in two days
The Dakar Rally has claimed another two victims following the death on Monday of Jose Maria Perez and on Tuesday afternoon of the former double winner Italian motorcyclist Fabrizio Meoni.
Perez, a 41-year-old Spaniard who was riding a KTM motorcycle for the Marjal International team, was on his fourth Dakar Rally and suffered serious abdominal injuries in an accident between Zouerat and Tichit in Mauretania on January 6. He was treated by medical teams at the site and then transferred to the bivouac at Zouerat where he underwent an emergency operation. He was then transferred to a hospital in Dakar before being flown to Alicante, Spain, where he died.
On Tuesday morning second-placed Meoni, the winner of the Dakar in 2001 and 2002, was running with a group of other leading riders in the stage between Atar and Kiffa in Mauritania when he crashed heavily. Rival David Fretigne saw the crash and immediately triggered the Italian's distress signal. A medical helicopter was on the scene in just over 20 minutes but paramedics were unable to revive Meoni, despite attempts which lasted for 45 minutes. Meoni was 47 and known to his fans as "The African" because of his love of desert raids.
Sadly, he had previously announced that this would be his 13th and last Dakar.
Meoni is the 42nd person to die on the Dakar since the event began in 1979. Ten of these have been motorcyclists who have fallen or been hit by cars. The total includes spectators (13), journalists (6), support crews and, of course, the original rally organizer Thierry Sabine, who was killed in a helicopter accident in 1986. One truck driver in 1991 was shot by unknown assassins, another was killed by a landmine in 1995.
Meoni is the second topline Dakar rider to die in four months, three-time winner Richard Sainct having been killed in an accident in September on the Pharaohs Rally in Egypt.
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