Dakar - Belgian biker Palante and two spectators die at Dakar Rally

Belgian motorcycle rider Eric Palante and two spectators have died during the Dakar Rally in Argentina.

Race organisers said the 50-year-old biker's body was found by officials at around 0830 local time at the 143km mark of the fifth stage between Chilecito and San Miguel de Tucuman in the north of the country.

A local judge was looking into the circumstances of the Belgian's death. Organisers said they had received no alert from the rider, who had water with him.

Palante was competing in his 11th Dakar in the amateur category.

"He knew the race very well, and over the years his enthusiastic but serious approach had made him one of the pillars of the event," the statement said.

Police said two spectators had also died when their vehicle overturned in rough terrain.

The Dakar Rally runs through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile with the finish in Valparaiso on January 18.

It is now in its sixth year in South America after starting out as a gruelling and frequently fatal race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital Dakar.

The Dakar Rally is considered one of the most dangerous events in the world.

Palante becomes the 27th competitor to die during the race since 1979.