French sports stars` bodies recovered after Argentine helicopter tragedy
The bodies of the 10 victims of a twin helicopter crash in Argentina, including three of France`s best-known athletes, were recovered Tuesday and taken to a morgue after a reality TV shoot went horribly wrong.
Villa Castelli: The bodies of the 10 victims of a twin helicopter crash in Argentina, including three of France`s best-known athletes, were recovered Tuesday and taken to a morgue after a reality TV shoot went horribly wrong.
Champion sailor Florence Arthaud, Olympic gold medallist swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine were among the victims killed when two helicopters filming the survival series "Dropped" smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province, local officials said.
Emergency workers removed the victims` bodies from the mangled wreckage of the two helicopters, taking them to the morgue in the provincial capital about 300 kilometers (200 miles) from the crash site.
The victims` bodies were burnt beyond recognition in the fiery crash, provincial security secretary Luis Cesar Angulo told AFP.
Officials said the journey to the city of La Rioja would take about three and a half hours, after which work will begin to identify the victims.
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-meter 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.
Muffat`s former trainer Fabrice Pellerin told French radio station RTL: "What`s hard is to reconcile the image I have of Camille, who was unsinkable, with what happened."
The swimmer`s partner, William Forgues, said she had been "very happy" to participate in the show.
"She was loving it," he told AFP. "She was hoping not to go out first to be able to continue, to go on to another magical destination."
"Dropped" involved eight sports stars being dropped into inhospitable environments for an adventure- and survival-themed show.
A fellow contestant, former France and Arsenal football star Sylvain Wiltord, said on Twitter: "I am sad for my friends. I am horrified. I`m speechless. I don`t want to say anything."
The other stars taking part in the show -- none of them involved in the accident -- were swimmer Alain Bernard, cyclist Jeannie Longo, snowboarder Anne-Flore Marxer and figure skater Philippe Candeloro.The show was to air on French television channel TF1.
Production company Adventure Line Productions (ALP) said it was "shattered" by the tragedy. It said it would "of course" immediately stop production and repatriate the teams.
ALP was involved in another French reality TV accident in 2013, when a contestant in survival show "Koh-Lanta" died of a heart attack during filming in Cambodia and a doctor on the program then committed suicide.
French prosecutors opened a manslaughter investigation into the accident in Argentina -- standard procedure in France when a national dies abroad.
Officials from France`s air investigation office were to travel to Argentina on Tuesday to take part in the probe.
The Rioja provincial government said a cast and crew of around 80 people, mostly French nationals, had descended on the area to film the series.
Shooting began in late February in Ushuaia, at the southern tip of South America in the glacial terrain of Patagonia.
It then moved to La Rioja, whose scenic mountain landscapes are popular with tourists.