Speedway rider Lee Richardson has died following a crash in Poland, his British team confirmed last night.
Richardson, 33, was competing for PGE Marma Rzeszow against Betard Sparta Wroclaw when he crashed into a safety fence.
The Lakeside Hammers captain was taken to a hospital in Wroclaw but died from his injuries.
A statement on the Hammers' website read: "All at the club are devastated at the loss of a great captain, man and more than anything else a wonderful father and husband.
"Our thoughts are with his family at this most sad of times and we know that all Hammers fans will share our total devastation at this tragic news."
Hammers co-promoter Jon Cook added: "I am numb and just can't take this in.
"Lee's loss to his family is beyond imagination and I can't see further than that at the moment."
Tributes quickly poured in for Richardson, who was world Under-21 champion in 1999, with many riders taking to Twitter to express their shock and disbelief at the news.
World champion Greg Hancock wrote: "Unreal news I just heard! It doesn't seem real and another innocent one is gone. Our thoughts are with the whole Richardson Family. RIP Lee."
British international Lewis Bridger said: "RIP Rico. Top, top bloke in the sport; I looked up to you so much man. I'm in tears right now. I really don't want to believe this."
His former Speedway Grand Prix rival Scott Nicholls added: "I am speechless & cannot think of any words to say at this very, very sad time. My thoughts are with the Richardson family & friends. RIP."
Belle Vue rider Rory Schlein also posted on Twitter: "Speedway at the mo means nothing. Will miss you Lee, our laughs we had on our flights and I will always remember. RIP Rico."