A DAKAR rally competitor has described how he was asleep in the back of his Land Rover when it was involved in a fatal collision.

Justin Birchall, 40, suffered four broken ribs, neck and back injuries in the accident, which killed two people in the Peruvian town of Tacna.

The businessman, who runs Birchall Foodservice in Hapton and lives in Burnley, grabbed hold of a seatbelt to keep himself in his four-wheel drive as an overturned taxi flipped over him following a head-on collision.

He is recovering alongside two Race2Recovery teammates, Lee Townsend and Major John Winskill, in hospital in Lima, Peru’s capital.

His wife Louise said she and the couple’s three children were ‘relieved’ to hear that his injuries were not life-threatening.

She said: “He has broken four ribs. His mum and dad are with him, which is a great comfort.

“We have been able to speak to him on several occasions and are very fortunate that one of our daughters is fluent in Spanish, so she has been able to liaise with the staff at the hospital.

“I would like to thank people for their kind messages, phone calls and emails. We have been overwhelmed by people’s support.

“However, we mustn’t forget that two people have lost their lives in this tragic road incident and our hearts go out to their families at this difficult time.”

A joint statement issued by Race2Recovery said Mr Birchall and his teammates extended their sympathies to the families of those who died.

It said: “Thanks and gratitude go out to the hospital staff and authorities from both Tacna and Lima for their help and for treating them with such kindness and respect which has been so typical of the Peruvian people throughout their stay.

“They greatly appreciate the members of the ASO, the organisers of the Dakar Rally, who assisted them both personally and behind the scenes throughout the rally and after they sustained their injuries.

“The injured Race2Recovery members are very sad to be leaving the Dakar Rally under such unfortunate circumstances and wish their fellow team members the very best in their continuing endeavours.”

It is not known how long Mr Birchall will remain in hospital, but he has already expressed a desire to return to South America to complete the race next year.