French sports stars among 10 dead in Argentina air crash

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 12:04 AM
French sports stars among 10 dead in Argentina air crash

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Two helicopters carrying passengers filming a popular European reality show crashed Monday in a remote area of northwest Argentina, killing eight French citizens and two Argentines, authorities said.

The helicopters crashed while flying near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province, about 730 miles (1,170 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires, La Rioja Secretary of Security Cesar Angulo told television station TN. All 10 people on board both aircraft were killed.

"An explosion occurred and it's believed that they collided," said Angulo. Photographs showed the burning and smoking wreckage of the helicopters on the ground in dry scrubland with people gathered nearby.

A statement from La Rioja's government said that among the 10 dead were French sports stars, including Olympic gold medal swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and champion sailor Florence Arthaud.

The French sports figures were part of a team filming the reality show "Dropped," a survivalist program with several versions across Europe, said the mayor of Villa Castelli, Andres Navarrete.

The crew had arrived on Sunday in Villa Castelli, where it had previously filmed a version of the show for Switzerland and Denmark, said Navarrette.

Both Argentine pilots, identified as Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate, were killed in the crash.

"The causes of the crash are not known," Navarrete told radio station Cadena 3.

Angulo said one of the helicopters belonged to La Rioja province and the other belonged to the neighboring province of Santiago del Estero.

"The helicopter from La Rioja was a Eurocopter with a capacity to hold six people. It appears to have brushed against the other helicopter from Santiago del Estero shortly after takeoff," the statement from the provincial government said.

Muffat, 25, won gold in the 400-meter freestyle, silver in the 200-meter freestyle and a bronze in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Vastine, 28, won a bronze medal at the 2008 games in Beijing in the 60-64 kilogram category.

A rugged, sparsely populated area is on the edge of the Andes mountain range that separates Argentina and Chile.

Several after-hours calls to various departments within the municipality of Villi Castelli were not answered.