Ten killed in helicopter crash in Argentina, French Olympians among the dead

Thursday, March 12, 2015

File photo of a 'Eurocopter', similar to the aircraft involved in the collision.
Image: Elisabeth Klimesch.

Three French sport stars are among the dead following a helicopter crash on Monday in Villa Castelli, Argentina. In total, ten people died after the crash, which involved two helicopters. The dead included passengers and both pilots in the mid-air collision. The victims were taking part in the French reality television show 'Dropped' when the accident happened.

The victims included Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and Florence Arthaud, a yachtswoman. Both pilots were Argentinian, the remainder of the victims were French and worked as part of the television shows production team. Bodies of all ten of the victims have been retrieved and taken to the morgue.

The accident occurred while both helicopters were flying at a low altitude in tandem. Amateur camera footage shows the helicopters colliding when one appears to fly into the path of the other. It remains unclear what caused actions which lead to the crash. Cesar Angulo, Secretary of Security for La Rioja, the province in which the accident happened released an update. He said "An explosion occurred and it's believed that they must have collided. Aeronautical experts will have to determine that."

French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the victims. Speaking about the sport stars who lost their lives he said "They are dead because they wanted to push the boundaries. They wanted to make new exploits known to the world, make people aware of new countries and regions." An involuntary manslaughter investigation has been opened by French officials. The procedure occurred automatically due to the fact the French citizens died abroad.

The television show involves contestants taking part in survival style activities in remote locations. Other contestants taking part included figure skater Philippe Candeloro, footballer Sylvain Wiltord, snowboarder Anne-Flore Marxer, swimmer Alain Bernard and Jeannie Longo, a cyclist. All the other contestants were uninjured during the accident.

The show, which was to be shown on TF1 in France started filming in February. The channel released a statement after the accident. They said "We learn with immense sadness of the accident that occurred during the filming of the show 'Dropped.' [Staff] come together in this terrible time with the pain of the families and those close to the victims". French media announced that all contestants and crew are returning home and that filming had been suspended.

Muffat became the Olympic champion in the 400m freestyle event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. The 25-year-old also won a silver and bronze medal at the same games in different events. Vastine, 28, also competed at the 2012 games, being eliminated from the Light Welterweight category in the quarter finals. He won a gold medal in the 2008 games in Beijing, China. Arthaud, 57, was a yachtswoman who won the 1990 Route du Rhum.