Three French sports stars killed in helicopter crash

Swimming star Camille Muffat, who won a gold, silver and bronze Olympic medal at London in 2012, is among helicopter crash victims.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (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 (March 9) 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.

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

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

Muffat, 25, won 400 metres freestyle gold at the 2012 London Olympics, plus silver in the 200m freestyle, and a bronze as part of the 4x200m freestyle team.

Vastine, 28, won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Arthaud, 57, was one of the first women to carve a place for herself in the top levels of sailing.

She had a brush with death in 2011 when she fell off her boat into the Mediterranean. But rescuers whisked her out after she called her mother by mobile phone.

“Florence Arthaud – we all knew her 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 issued a statement expressing solidarity for the victims’ families. French media said filming had been suspended and the crew and other contestants were heading back to France.

“We have no details on the exact circumstances at the moment,” TF1 chief executive Nonce Paolini said. “All I can say at the moment is that we are in a state of complete shock.”

“Dropped” involves contestants being left in the wilderness and using their skills to find their way back to civilisation.

The collision was the second time in two years that a reality show produced by ALP for TF1 had been 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 died following one of the tests, complaining of heart pains.

The victims included the helicopters’ two pilots, La Rioja’s security chief Cesar Angulo told reporters earlier.

“There were no survivors, according to the information we have,” Angulo said.

Argentina’s official news agency Telam said one of the helicopters belonged to the provincial government and the other to organisers of a survival competition that had been held for three years near the village of Villa Castelli.