French sports stars killed

Three among 10 who lost their lives as choppers collide

THREE French sports stars – Olympic 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.

Authorities said it was still unclear what caused the accident in the rugged western province of La Rioja near the Andes mountains.

French media citing Argentinian sources said the helicopters were flying through clear skies at an altitude of about 100m when they hit each other at about 8pm.

Amateur footage showed dozens of people rushing through heavy undergrowth toward the burning wreckage.

“The sudden death of our fellow French nationals is a cause of immense sadness,” French President Francois Hollande’s office said.

Two pilots and several members of the ALP TV production company involved in filming the adventure show Dropped for private TV station TF1 were among the dead, officials said.

As part of the show other contestants were standing blindfolded on the ground a few hundred metres from the helicopters’ flight path, French media reported.

They ran to the crash site but could not extinguish the fire, an assistant said.

“French sport is in mourning because we have lost three huge champions,” the junior minister for sports, town and youth affairs, Thierry Braillard, said. “Florence Arthaud we all knew as the ‘Fiancee of the Atlantic’,” he said, referring to a nickname she earned through her many daring voyages, including a 1990 record for the fastest solitary crossing of that body of water.

TF1 expressed solidarity for the victims’ families.