Dakar Rally organizers announced the death of Belgian racer Eric Palante, 50. The experienced Dakar racer disappeared on the fifth stage which most competitors completed Jan. 9. Organizers began a search for Palante and located his body this morning, somewhere between Chilecito and San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina.

No cause of death has been determined at this time. A posting on Palante’s official website said he had injured his hand and was worried it would affect his handling on the difficult fifth stage, though there’s no way to know if that related to his fate. Judge Dr. Massucco of Belen will conduct the investigation into the circumstances of Palante’s death.

Palante is a veteran of the Dakar Rally, competing this year for the 11th time. His best ever finish was 66th in 2012. Palante rode a Honda CRF450X, competing in the amateur class without a support crew. Palante leaves behind wife Monica and their five children, Nathan, Pierre, Morgane, Catherine and Stephanie.

In addition to Palante, two spectators have reportedly died. Agustin Ignacio Mina, 19, and Daniel Eduardo Ambrosio, 51, died after their vehicle crashed in rough terrain.

[Source: Dakar, Eric Palante (Facebook)]