Chopper collision kills French sports stars

Chopper collision kills French sports stars

Three French athletes were among 10 people killed in a twin helicopter crash in Argentina on Monday after a reality TV shoot went wrong.

Champion sailor Florence Arthaud, Olympic gold medallist swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine were among those killed when two helicopters filming the survival series “Dropped” smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province, local officials said.

On Tuesday, emergency workers removed the victims’ bodies from the mangled wreckage of the two helicopters, taking them to the morgue. The bodies were burnt beyond recognition in the fiery crash, provincial security secretary Luis Cesar Angulo said.

There were no survivors in the crash, which authorities said happened in good weather conditions early Monday evening.

The accident triggered shock in France, where television showed the two helicopters flying extremely close to each other, then their rotors clipping and both aircraft plummeting to the ground.

“The whole of France is in mourning,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

It was the worst accident in the history of reality television.

Alongside the three sports stars, five French TV crew members and two Argentine pilots died in the crash, a police source said.

Arthaud, 57, was considered one of the best sailors in the world, a woman who conquered what had been a strictly male-dominated sport. Her titles included the 1990 Route du Rhum, the most prestigious transatlantic solo race.

She also opened the way for the likes of Ellen MacArthur, who ruled the waves for women in February 2005 when she broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe.

Muffat, 25, was one of the top swimmers in French history, winning three medals at the London Olympics in 2012, including gold in the 400-metre freestyle. She shocked the sporting world in June 2014 by announcing her sudden retirement at the age of 24, saying she was exhausted by the long hours of training and wanted to pursue new endeavors.

Vastine, 28, won a bronze medal at the Beijing Games in 2008 in the light welterweight category.

His death came just two months after his sister was killed in a car crash, aged 21.

President Francois Hollande led the tributes, saying the “brutal death of our compatriots is an immense sadness.”

“They died because, again, they wanted to push the boundaries,” said Hollande.

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