Dakar: Polish rider Michal Hernik, 39, found dead along third stage

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Dakar Rally motorcycle competitor Michal Hernik, 39, of Poland was found dead today at kilometer No. 206 along Stage 3 between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina.

In a statement, race organizers say the circumstances of his death have yet to be determined and that Hernik did not show “any external signs of an accident.”

The statement continues: “When the race management detected the loss of his Irritrack signal and was informed that he had not completed the special stage at 15:16, it decided to start a search for the rider at 15:23. An ambulance helicopter found the rider 300 meters off the route at 16:03. Unfortunately, the on-board doctor could only confirm the rider’s death.”

Hernik was competing in his very first Dakar and was running 84th in the motorcycle category. Prior to this year’s event, he had completed the 2013 Morocco Rally and 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

His official profile on the Dakar site details a short story of friendship between himself and fellow Polish riders Pawel Stasiaczek and Norbert Madetko – all of whom had a common dream to compete in the world’s toughest rally.

Ultimately, Hernik and Stasiaczek were able to reach the start this year in Buenos Aires as teammates. Both of their profiles carry the following: “Getting ready [for] Dakar took us two years…In terms of amateurs, our goal will be to complete the rally, whatever the position. That would be our success.

“Our most powerful asset is our friendship and mutual support in difficult moments after heavy days. This is due to our common dream and the adventure we lived to prepare for the Dakar…”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Hernik’s family, friends, and peers at this time.

Last year’s event was marred by the Stage 6 death of Belgian rider Eric Palante. In a separate incident on that same stage, two other people were killed when the car they were traveling in fell into a ravine. Two others in that car survived the crash.