(Reuters) - The first stage of the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally was canceled on Thursday after an incident involving Hayden Paddon caused the death of a spectator when the New Zealander rolled his Hyundai and blocked the icy road.
Neither Paddon or co-driver John Kennard were hurt but video images appeared to show a spectator tumbling down the rocky bank after the impact, with Hyundai Motorsport later issuing a statement saying the fan had passed away.
"Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of a spectator during the opening stage of Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday evening," Hyundai's statement said, though there was no immediate confirmation from the WRC
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"The incident occurred at the same time as the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard crashed into the mountainside, after the car hit a patch of black ice at the entry to a left-hand turn.
"The team and crew have pledged their full support to the event organizers and authorities to understand the full details."
Paddon was almost at the end of the 21.25km Entrevaux-Ubraye stage when he lost control as he entered a left-hand corner and hit the bank rear first.
The rally started in Monaco's Casino Square on Thursday before the field left for the opening night stages north to the town of Gap.
Friday is the longest day, with more stages on Saturday before Sunday's final leg that includes the renowned Col de Turini, where ice and snow can cause problems.
France's four times world champion Sebastien Ogier, now driving an M-Sport Ford, has won the rally for the past three years for Volkswagen.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)