Former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden has succumbed to his injuries, five days after being hit by a car while cycling.
The American was training on the Rimini coastline in Italy last Wednesday when he collided with a vehicle. He was taken to a local hospital with head and chest injuries, before being transferred to the intensive care unit of the Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena.
The hospital soon released a statement confirming the severity of Hayden's condition, saying he had suffered multiple traumatic injuries – including "serious cerebral damage" – and that the decision had been taken to place him in a medically induced coma.
Hayden, who competed in the World Superbike Championship in Italy on 14 May, won the MotoGP championship in 2006.
The 'Kentucky Kid' first entered MotoGP in 2003, finishing third in the standings two years later.
Twelve months after that, he was a world champion, ending Valentino Rossi's five-year winning streak following a dramatic final race in Valencia.
Starting the race eight points behind Rossi in the standings, Hayden was able to clinch the title with a third-place finish after Rossi slid out on lap five – leading to some very emotional scenes from an overjoyed champion.
He stayed in MotoGP up until 2015, although he never rose to those heights again.
In 2016, Hayden switched to the Superbike World Championship and claimed a race win in Malaysia.
Nicky’s brother Tommy released a statement on behalf of his family:
“On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.
“Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.
“Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.
“It is also important for us to thank all the hospital staff for their incredible support – they have been very kind. With the further support of the authorities in the coming days we hope to have Nicky home soon.”
Tributes from fellow riders and others were quick to come pouring in on social media:
Always in my heart, champ. RIP Nicky. #69 pic.twitter.com/ML35Qm7f1g
— Dani Pedrosa (@26_DaniPedrosa) May 22, 2017
— Marc Márquez (@marcmarquez93) May 22, 2017
— Jorge Lorenzo (@lorenzo99) May 22, 2017
A beautiful person, genuine and real.
RIP mate. pic.twitter.com/UiDwzhe67N
— Mark Webber (@AussieGrit) May 22, 2017
Nicest guy in the paddock! So so sad? always in our hearts❤️ RIP Nicky xx pic.twitter.com/r2iqvGuDrQ
— Danny Kent (@DannyKent52) May 22, 2017
Just heart breaking. Nicky was more than just a true hero in my eyes. I send my love from deep inside my heart. R.I.P Kentucky Kid #69?❤️
— ReddingPower (@Reddingpower) May 22, 2017
Sad news, RIP Nicky Hayden
— Rio Haryanto (@RHaryantoracing) May 22, 2017
RIP Nicky Hayden ?
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) May 22, 2017
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Nicky Hayden, heartfelt condolences to his family and close ones.
Riposa in pace Nicky.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 22, 2017