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Support for Paddon after rally death

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/01/2017
Image of Hayden Paddon © Getty Image of Hayden Paddon

Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon says he's humbled by support after his vehicle flipped in the opening stage of the Monte Carlo rally killing a spectator, but the victim's family are his only concern for the moment.

The Hyundai driver and navigator John Kennard were attempting a left-hand bend when they slid off the road and hit a bank, flipping the car on its side.

A man, believed to be a photographer, was seen in video footage tumbling down onto the road near the car.

It is unclear if the car directly struck the man or if Paddon's collision caused him to fall from a perch on the embankment.

Paddon and Kennard were not hurt and safely exited the vehicle but Paddon could be seen wildly gesticulating to spectators who approached the crash.

Rally Monte Carlo director Christian Tornatore confirmed the man was airlifted unconscious to a hospital in Nice but died soon after.

In a statement on Saturday Paddon urged that people not speculate about the accident and called for privacy and respect.

"Obviously my thoughts are with the family and that is my only concern at the moment," he said.

"Not being able to return home to New Zealand does make it a little tougher but it is important we stay strong.

He said he and Kennard were humbled by messages of support and it was important to learn from the accident to ensure it doesn't happen again.

He also urged spectators to "please be considerate where you stand".

Hyundai Motorsport said in a statement that they were deeply saddened by the man's death and sent their condolences to his family.

The first stage was also cancelled as a result of the accident.

"The team and crew have pledged their full support to the event organisers and authorities to understand the full details," Hyundai said.

Paddon and Kennard went off-road near the end of the 21.25km route, which in recent days has been plagued by frost, black ice and sub-zero temperatures.

Paddon posted to Twitter immediately following the crash, saying he was caught out by black ice, which caused the car to snap sideways.

After the death was confirmed, Paddon posted another update to say he was distraught and in shock.

"It's difficult to say much more at the moment as we are in shock with what has happened," Paddon wrote.

"I'm sorry for the family, the fans and our sport."

The stage is the first of the new WRC season and the first since more powerful cars were introduced to the championship over the off-season.

Rally stars Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville had earlier completed the stage without incident but also acknowledged the difficult conditions.

The rally started in Monaco's Casino Square on Thursday before the field left for the opening night stages, heading north to the town of Gap.

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