3 French athletes killed in Argentina helicopter crash
THREE French sports stars - Olympic champion swimmer Camille Muffat, yachtswoman Florence Arthaud and boxer Alexis Vastine - were among 10 people killed when two helicopters collided in Argentina on Monday, during the filming of a reality TV show.
The crash happened near the town of Villa Castelli, around 1,100km north of the capital Buenos Aires. The local media showed the wreckage of the two helicopters in flames on dry scrubland. It was the worst accident in the history of reality television.
The authorities said it was still unclear what caused the accident in the rugged western province of La Rioja, near the Andes mountains.
La Rioja provincial spokesman Horacio Alarcon told Agence France-Presse that there were no survivors in the crash, which happened in good weather conditions.
The victims included the helicopters' two pilots.
Muffat, 25, was a top swimmer at the London Olympics in 2012, bagging three medals, including the gold in the 400m freestyle.
Arthaud, 57, was one of the first women to carve a place for herself in the world of sailing and, in 1990, secured the record for the fastest solitary crossing of the North Atlantic, according to her publisher's website.
Vastine, 28, won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
"The whole of France is in mourning this morning," said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
A statement from French President Francois Hollande's office in Paris said: "The sudden death of our fellow French nationals is a cause of immense sadness."
It added that several members of the ALP TV production company involved in shooting the adventure show Dropped for private TV station TF1 were among the dead. In total, eight French nationals were killed, said the authorities.
TF1 issued a statement expressing sadness and solidarity with the families of the victims. The French media said filming had been suspended and the crew and other contestants, which included cycling legend Jeannie Longo, were heading back to France.
"I am sad for my friends, I'm shaking, I'm horrified, I can't find the words," tweeted Sylvain Wiltord, a former footballer for English Premier League club Arsenal and fellow cast member.
Dropped involves contestants being left in the wilderness and using their skills to find their way back to civilisation.
It was the second time in two years that a reality show produced by ALP for TF1 was hit by tragedy.
In April 2013, the doctor charged with looking after the contestants in the long-running Koh-Lanta endurance show committed suicide after one of the competitors, who complained of heart pains, died following one of the tests.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE