Dakar rider Pascal Terry 'could have been saved'
A Police autopsy has revealed that French motorcyclist Pascal Terry died of pulmonary oedema – the swelling and/or accumulation of fluid on the lungs which lead to respiratory failure - during the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday.
By Brendan Gallagher
Last Updated: 11:54PM GMT 08 Jan 2009
Missed: a communication mix-up delayed Pascal Terry's rescue and he died Photo: REUTERS
A preliminary Argentinian Police report also suggests that Terry’s life may have been saved had the race organisers instigated a search immediately on Sunday night at the end of the second stage when he failed to reach the finish of the day’s racing. He was not found until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Officially the result of the autopsy revealed that the French pilot Terry died of pulmonary oedema ... which produced cardio-respiratory failure,” said Julio Acosta, chief of the department of operations of the La Pampa province police, late on Wednesday night.
“The death of the pilot occurred between Monday and Tuesday morning,” Acosta said. “He could have been saved, if he had been rescued in time,” Acosta said.
Terry, 49, had been missing since Sunday’s 2nd stage of the race between Santa Rosa and Puerto Madryn. Acosta said confusion over whether Terry had arrived at the Nequen camp on Sunday delayed the start of the search.
“The search was not started immediately, that same Sunday, because a Terry checked into the Neuquén camp, but it wasn’t Pascal but his brother, who is also competing in the rally,” Acosta said.
Terry had informed race control on Sunday that his Yamaha had run out of petrol at the 197 kilometre mark, but that he had procured some from another competitor. Organisers later tried to contact him on two occasions, but were unable to get any response.
Search operations were launched the following day, but they were unable to locate Terry until early on Wednesday morning when he was found dead by local police.
“The motorcyclist was found in an area that is very inaccessible with very dense vegetation 15 metres from his bike,” organisers said in a statement. “He had taken off his helmet and had taken shelter with food and water next to him.”
Although the autopsy had been performed, Acosta said Terry’s body was still being held by authorities pending completion of the necessary documentation.
“There was a breakdown in the organisation’s chain of communication between January 4 and 5,” said race director Etienne Lavigne. “Information that he had deployed a distress signal reached Paris on January 4 and we here were not informed before the fifth.”
Later on Wednesday, France’s Yvan Muller had to pull out of the race after his buggy caught fire in what appeared to be a collision with the lorry of Portugal’s Elisabete Jacinto, whose vehicle was on fire at the same place, organisers said. No competitor was injured in the incident.
Chilean police have issued a statement saying 2,500 officers would be deployed during the section of the race that traverses their country between Jan 11-14 as the authorities expected 250,000 people to line the roads. The rally will visit Valparaiso, Coquimbo and Atacama before rejoining Argentina on January 14. Chilean authorities will also have two aircraft at their disposal – a Hercules and a Boeing 737.
Terry was the first fatality at this year’s race which started in Buenos Aires on January 3 and finishes back in the Argentine capital on January 17, but is the 51st person involved with the event to die since its inception in 1979.
These include 19 competitors, 17 race personnel, including its founder Thierry Sabine in a helicopter crash in 1986, and at least 15 spectators or others who died due to the high-speed chase of cars, motorcycles and lorries over some of the toughest terrain in the world.
The race was switched to South America from North Africa this year after the threat of terrorism caused last year’s race to be cancelled.
British driver Paul Green’s condition is improving following his crash on Saturday but co-driver Matthew Harrison remains in an induced coma. They were rushed to different hospitals in Santa Rosa with upper-chest injuries.
Defending champion Cyril Depres won the sixth stage in the motorcycle section with the stage shortened to 178km, from 394km.
Nasser Al-Attiyah could see his victory in the sixth stage of the main rally taken away with organisers investigating whether the Qatari driver failed to cross a way-point. Al-Attiyah (BMW) won the stage in 2h 7min 26sec — 5min 07sec ahead of South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers (Volkswagen).