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East Lancashire crash victim cheers on Dakar rally team
DAKAR Rally crash victim Justin Birchall was at the finish line as his teammates completed the gruelling two-week race.
Two members of his Race2Recovery crew became the first disability team to complete the famous off-road event.
Mr Birchall was hospitalised as a result of an accident in Peru on January 9, but recovered enough to make it to the final stage and watch in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday evening.
He greeted Major Matt O’Hare, and Corporal Phillip Gillespie, an amputee from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, as they crossed the line in 91st position.
And there was royal recognition for the team as they received a personal message of congratulations from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince William, who said the couple had been following the team’s progress since day one, said: “Catherine and I have heard the wonderful news about your success today — many, many congratulations.
“What you have achieved was a triumph of perseverance and teamwork, and you have shown the world what true valour looks like. We hope you get some rest now, and, please, no driving like that on our roads when you're back!”
Mr Birchall, broke four ribs when a Land Rover he was a passenger in collided with two taxis, killing two Peruvian civilians.
Team mechanic Lee Townsend, from Yate, near Bristol, and retired Army Major John Winskill, 42, a logistics expert from Durrington, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, also suffered serious injuries in the accident.
Mr Birchall, a director at Hapton firm Birchall Foodservice, is expected to fly home later this week to see his wife Louise and daughters Courtney, Sigourney and Alicia.
Major O’Hare, a 32-year-old driver from Hereford, paid tribute to Justin and his injured colleagues: “Our other drivers and co-drivers who were forced to retire earlier in the race became an integral part of the support team as we continued the challenge and so this is a team success.”