French sports stars killed in Argentina helicopter crash

BUENOS AIRES/PARIS, (Reuters) – 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 100 meters when they hit each other around 5.15 p.m. local time (2015 GMT).

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

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

Preparations were being made to recover the bodies from the mangled wreckage, said local mayor Andres Navarrete. He described flying conditions at the time of the accident as “ideal”.

“Some of the bodies can be seen and others are buried under the charred mass of metal,” Navarrete said, speaking by telephone from the crash site.

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 meters from the helicopters’ flight path, French media reported.

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