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Helicopter crash kills French sports stars in La Rioja, Argentina - Camille Muffat, Alexis Vastine and Florence Arthaud among 10 dead

Hollande: 'The brutal demise of our compatriots is an immense sadness'

By Heather Saul

Three French sports stars are among 10 people killed when two helicopters carrying them crashed in a remote part of Argentina, authorities say.

French Olympic gold medal swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and sailor Florence Arthaud died when the helicopters apparently collided mid-air Monday near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province, about 730 miles (1,170 kilometres) northwest of Buenos Aires.

Eight French nationals and two Argentine pilots were killed in total.

An Argentine statement identified the remaining victims as Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Edouard Gilles, as well as Argentine pilots Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate.

The cause of the crash remains unclear and officials say weather conditions at the time were good. La Rioja Secretary of Security, Cesar Angulo, told TN television: “An explosion occurred and it's believed that they [the helicopters] collided.”

The stars were filming a popular European celebrity reality show called Dropped when the apparent collision occurred. The survival programme follows contestants in rugged terrains as they attempt to find their own food and build their own shelter.

The show's producers, Adventure Line Productions (ADL), released a statement confirming the 10 deaths.

"All the ADL teams are devastated and share the deep pain of the families and loved ones they are in contact with," it said. "We are in contact with the production teams on site (and) with the French and Argentine authorities. We will give more information as soon as possible."

French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the Olympian’s death in a statement. "The brutal demise of our compatriots is an immense sadness,” he said on Tuesday.

“Some had finished their careers and one was dreaming of gold in Rio,” French Secretary of State for Sport Thierry Braillard said on BFM TV channel. “I'm profoundly saddened. French sport has lost three stars this morning.”

Former France and Arsenal striker Sylvain Wiltord, ice skating champion Philippe Candeloro, former Olympic swimming champion Alain Bernard and veteran cyclist Jeannie Longo are among the other French athletes who took part in the show, but none were involved in the accident.

“I am sad for my friends, I'm trembling, I'm horrified, I don't have words. I can't say anything,” Wiltord tweeted.

Source: Independent

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