SANTIAGO, Chile -- Italian motorcyclist Luca Manca was critically injured in a fall Thursday in the Dakar Rally and was placed in an induced coma.
Officials at Del Cobre Hospital in Calama, where the 29-year-old Manca was airlifted, said he sustained critical head injuries and was breathing on a respirator. Officials described his condition as "life-threatening."
"These are critical injuries," said Dr. Miguel Cortes, who treated Manca following the accident. "He's on a ventilator and in an induced coma so we can keep him resting and so he does not fight the ventilator."
Race officials said Manca was likely to be transferred later to Santiago.
Manca, lying ninth overall in his first Dakar, crashed 6 miles into the 260-mile stage through the Atacama Desert in northern Chile from Antofagasta to Iquique.
He was praised following Wednesday's fifth stage for giving defending champion Marc Coma of Spain a rear wheel so Coma could finish the stage.
In another accident Thursday, Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves of BMW broke his collarbone in a crash and withdrew.
The Dakar Rally is considered one of the most dangerous events in motor sports. On Saturday, a 28-year-old woman was killed when a vehicle taking part in the race veered off the course and hit her during the opening stage.
Last year, French motorcyclist Pascal Terry died during the rally.