Marco Simoncelli, one of the world's most popular high ranking young motorcycle riders, was killed in a horrific crash at the Malaysian MotoGP race in Kuala Lumpur. Simoncelli's death came as a shock to international fans of the 24-year-old Italian.

His death is only one week after British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon's tragic death following a 15-car collision. Both Simoncelli and Wheldon's accidents have raised questions about the safety precautions and dangers of racing sports.

Simoncelli lost control of his Honda at Turn 11, four minutes into the Malaysian MotoGP race. As he swerved across the track, Simoncelli crossed paths with Italian racer Valentino Rossi and American Colin Edwards.

After the crash, Simoncelli lay motionless on the track with his helmet beside him. The 24-year-old was sent to a local medical center and pronounced dead 45 minutes later from chest, head, and neck injuries.

As soon as I saw the footage, it just makes you sick inside, Casey Stoner, newly crowned MotoGP champion, told the BBC. Whenever the helmet comes off, that's not a good sign.

The race was canceled when the extent of Simoncelli's injuries became clear.

Marco was flamboyant on and off the track, said Matt Roberts, a BBC MotoGP broadcaster. When someone dies, everyone always says they loved life. But he had a very vibrant personality. He already had a huge fanbase around the world, partly down to aggressive riding -- but also because he was just a cool guy. He didn't take himself too seriously and would have been a big star for next year.

Simoncelli had competed in the Road Racing World Championship for 10 years from 2002 to 2011. He won the 250CC World Championship in 2008 and moved up into MotoGP in 2010 when he finished eighth overall in the season before.

His best finish in 2010 was fourth place in a race in Portugal, but he was expected to be a major contender and star in 2011. He finished fifth in the 2011 season-opening race in Qatar. In the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa competed for second, collided, and Simoncelli ended with a fifth-place finish.

Despite suffering several crashes this year, Simoncelli finished in second place in Australia last week.

MotoGP star Valentino Rossi, a close friend and seven-time champion wrote on Twitter: Sic for me was like a youngest brother. So strong on track and so sweet in the normal life. I will miss him a lot.

Fans also mourned Simoncelli's death on Twitter:

  • RIP Marco Simoncelli - you will be missed, fan Keegan Allen said.
  • Can't absorb Simoncelli news. Have loved watching him ride this year. Terribly sad news. RIP, Chris Harris tweeted.
  • SImoncelli... my thoughts prayers go out to his family! Shane Victorino tweeted.

Simoncelli's death was the first in MotoGP since Daijiro Katoh died from injuries at the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix.

Watch the Marco Simoncelli - Colin Edwards Crash:

Watch the Race and the Crash: