VILLA CASTELLI, Argentina (AP) — A former French Olympic skater who was participating in a reality show in Argentina said Wednesday that the crew was filming when their two helicopters collided and crashed, killing all 10 on board.
Philippe Candeloro, a two-time Olympic bronze medal winner, said when the helicopters took off he went into the production van to get some shade because his group of participants had a short break. About 30 seconds later he heard a loud noise.
"I did not see the crash. I only heard it — the bang," said Candeloro, who spoke in French to reporters near the crash site about 730 miles (1,170 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.
Two Argentine pilots and three acclaimed French athletes were among the 10 who died Monday afternoon when the two helicopters crashed during production of the reality television show "Dropped." The victims included Olympian swimmer Camille Muffat and boxer Alexis Vastine as well as pioneering sailor Florence Arthaud.
Candeloro said he initially thought one of the helicopters had a mechanical problem, but soon realized that whatever happened involved both aircraft.
"I saw black smoke going up in two columns and I realized it was not only one of the helicopters but both of them," he said.
He said other crew members were still in shock. "I think we slept better last night but always with those terrible images in our heads when we wake up," he said.
Candeloro said he and other crew members had been asked to make statements to an Argentina judge, and after doing that they plan to return to France.
"We put ourselves at the disposition of the judge, hoping the investigation will be quick because our families need to hug us," he said.
A spokesman for the La Rioja regional government told The Associated Press that federal Judge Daniel Herrera Piedrabuena was interviewing crew members as part of the crash investigation. The judge was based at a hotel in Villa Union, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the crash site.
French investigators arrived at the crash site Wednesday and began inspecting the wreckage while locals looked on.
"I saw it all ... it was going up and then down and up and down. I went inside and I said to my husband that this helicopter has some serious defect," resident Olga Rojo said.