France stunned by Argentina crash

France-10-3-15.-pixProsecutors in France have opened a manslaughter investigation after two helicopters crashed in Argentina, killing eight French nationals.

Three well-known French sports personalities were among those killed in the collision, which also claimed the lives of the two Argentine pilots.

French President Francois Hollande said it was “a cause of immense sadness”.

Both helicopters were involved in the filming of TV survival show Dropped, which airs on French channel TF1.

On the show, celebrities are flown into rough terrain and filmed while they attempt to find food and shelter.

Yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine were the show’s celebrities on board at the time of the crash. They all died.

Other contestants were standing on the ground blindfolded a few hundred metres away when the accident happened near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province, French media said.

Reports in Argentina said French swimmer Alain Bernard, who was also taking part in the show, narrowly escaped the crash after getting off one of the helicopters at the last minute to avoid overloading it.

The five other French nationals killed were said to have worked for Adventure Line Productions (ALP), the company making the programme. They were named as Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Edouard Gilles.

The Argentine pilots were named as Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate.

Emergency workers had removed all of the bodies from the wreckage by yestursday afternoon, reports the BBC’s Ignacio de los Reyes.

Local authorities said they were being taken to a morgue in the capital of La Rioja province, about 300km (200 miles) from the crash site.

The cause of the crash is as yet unclear and investigations are under way. The inquiry in France is standard procedure when its nationals die overseas.

President Hollande is sending two investigators and two aeronautical advisors to Argentina to assist in finding out what went wrong.

Tributes have poured in to the dead stars from France and beyond.

“We are shocked by this sad news,” said Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee.

“The world of sport and the Olympic family have lost three of their key members,” he said, calling them champions and role models.

Yachtsman Tanguy de Lamotte: “Florence was a very true person”

British round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur told the BBC: “Florence’s view was that the sea is out there and it’s there for the taking.

“You know, I’m sure she’s inspired many, many people,” she added.

–BBC

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