Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Juan Sebastian Castro dies during Darien Rally Raid

Bike racer Juan Sebastián Castro was found dead in the rural town of Cimitarra, Santander, while competing in the fourth round of the Campeonato Colombiano de Rally Raid Darién (Colombian Darién Rally Raid Championship) on Saturday. He was thirty years old.

Castro disappeared in the middle of Saturday’s stage with his tracker last registering him as crossing a bridge dubbed “Bridge #7” on the way to Platanillo. Race organisers put out a missing persons notice with a reward of two million pesos for those able to find him, but his body was subsequently discovered next to a ravine.

A cause of death was not immediately confirmed, though authorities have suggested he succumbed to heat stroke.

Castro was competing on his Honda CRF 250 bike, one of nine riders in the 300 category. The stage on Saturday was the first of two for the weekend after a Prologue took place on Friday.

“The Darién Rally community, with deep regret, confirms the death of our competitor Juan Sebastian Castro due to apparent heat stroke, during the fourth round of the Rally Raid held in Cimitarra, Santander,” reads a statement from race officials. “We are immensely grateful to the Municipality’s Mayor’s Office, represented by Dr. Omar Galvis, who was in charge of convening the search teams of the Municipal Firefighters, National Police, National Army, the Cattlemen’s Association, and the community of Cimitarra. In addition, we are extremely thankful for all the search and rescue efforts carried out by the competitors participating in the event, our logistics staff, and the Darién community for all their support, their voice of solidarity, brotherhood, and support as a family to face these types of situations because they were always ready to help, no matter where they are from.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family of this great athlete, his friends, and loved ones. The news of his departure is heartbreaking and carries an immense emotional weight as an extremely difficult and painful moment. To Juan, we will always remember him for his persistence, his achievements and his legacy that will last in the memory of the entire family that lives and feels the passion for rallies and competitive sports.”

Due to the arduous nature of rally raids, heat stroke is tragically not an uncommon condition that competitors face; Dakar Rally veteran Bram van der Wouden died from heat stroke at the Morocco Desert Challenge in April, while the Ultimate Desert Challenge in August cancelled a stage after the death of Muben Shah for the same reason. While the MDC and UDC are held in deserts whereas the Darién Rally takes place in more forested and mountainous environments, tough conditions in rural areas further from society can disrupt access to certain resources not immediately available. This is also compounded by the loss of tracking, as was the case with Castro, making the search more difficult.