SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Italian motorcyclist Luca Manca was critically injured Thursday in the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally and placed in an induced coma after falling from his bike.

Officials at the Cobre de Calma hospital, where the 29-year-old Manca was airlifted, said he sustained head injuries and was breathing on a respirator. Officials described his condition as "life-threatening."

Manca was ninth overall in his first Dakar, crashing only six miles into the 260-mile stage through the Atacama Desert in northern Chile from Antofagasta to Iquique.

In another accident on 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 race vehicle veered off the course during the opening stage.

The Dakar Rally ends Jan. 16 in Buenos Aires.

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