Olympians killed filming reality show

Written By komlim puldel on Selasa, 10 Maret 2015 | 20.01

10 people have died following a helicopter crash in northwest Argentina.

People gather ... near the smoking remains of a helicopter that crashed with another near Villa Castelli in the La Rioja province of Argentina. Picture: AP Source: AP

TWO helicopters carrying French sports stars filming a popular European reality show crashed in a remote part of Argentina, killing 10 people, including two Olympic medal winners and a sailing champion, authorities said.

The helicopters apparently collided in midair near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province, about 1170 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires, La Rioja Secretary of Security Cesar Angulo told TN television. All 10 people on board — eight French nationals and two Argentine pilots — were killed.

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

Among the dead were French Olympic gold medal swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and sailor Florence Arthaud, according to a statement from La Rioja's government.

No survivors ... All 10 people on board the two choppers were killed. Picture: AP/Jose Alamo Source: AP

The news of the deaths during the filming of the reality survival show Dropped sent the French sports world into mourning.

The deaths are likely to place new attention on the risks involved with reality TV shows, which have been highly popular and sometimes involve taking celebrities and others to far-flung locations to faces challenges against the natural elements — both physical and mental.

Dead ... (from L) French Champion sailor Florence Arthaud in 2014, French Olympic gold medallist swimmer Camille Muffat in 2013, and French Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine in Beijing in 2008. The trio were among 10 killed in a helicopter crash while filming the survival series Dropped. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Two years ago, TF1 — France's best-known private-sector network, which aired the show — cancelled the remaining season of the Survivor-like reality show Koh Lanta after a 25-year-old participant died of a heart attack on the first day of filming.

"The brutal demise of our compatriots is an immense sadness," said French President Francois Hollande in a statement.

French President delivers a speech to pay homage to the three French athletes were among the 10 people who died as two helicopters filming a reality show crashed in a remote part of Argentina. Picture: AP Source: AP

Muffat, 25, won the gold medal in the 400-metre freestyle at the Olympic Games in 2012, adding a silver medal in the 200-metre freestyle and a bronze in the 4 by 200-metre freestyle relay.

She had since retired from swimming to focus on her personal life.

Lost in the crash ... France's Camille Muffat smiles as she holds the bronze medal she won in the Women's 200m freestyle final at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Barcelona. Picture: AP Source: AP

"Camille was quite a shy and reserved person. She was discreet. But when it was time for a bit of a laugh she was always there," Olympic gold medallist Amaury Leveaux said. "French sport has lost a great champion."

Alexis Vastine won a bronze medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, but his semi-final loss to Manuel Felix Diaz was marred in controversy as he was docked points by the referee in the final round. Vastine broke down in tears after the defeat.

Onlookers ... People gather near the smoking remains of the helicopters that crashed. Picture: AP/Gabriel Gonzalez Source: AP

In 2012, he lost in the quarterfinals at the London Games also amid controversy when he drew on points against Taras Shelestyuk of Ukraine but lost on the countback rule, thus missing out on a medal.

"Some had finished their careers and one was dreaming of gold in Rio," French Secretary of State for Sport Thierry Braillard said on BFM TV channel. "I'm profoundly saddened. French sport has lost three stars this morning."

No survivors ... Picture of the burning wreckages of two helicopters which collided midair near Villa Castelli, in the Argentine province of La Rioja. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France's foreign ministry is in contact with authorities in Argentina to determine what caused the crash.

Adventure Line Productions, the show's producers, said in a statement, that its teams were "devastated and share the deep pain of the families and loved ones."

"We are in contact with the production teams on site (and) with the French and Argentine authorities. We will give more information as soon as possible," the producers added.

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

"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.

Trembling ... Soccer player Sylvain Wiltord in 2001. Picture: Supplied Source: News Limited

Former France and Arsenal striker Sylvain Wiltord, ice skating champion Philippe Candeloro and former Olympic swimming champion Alain Bernard and veteran cyclist Jeannie Longo are among the other French athletes who took part in the show, but none were involved in the accident.

"I am sad for my friends, I'm trembling, I'm horrified, I don't have words. I can't say anything," Wiltord tweeted.

"I don't have words to express the pain I feel, the tears are flowing and won't stop," said former French sprinter Muriel Hurtis — a gold medallist in the 4 x 100 relay at the 2003 world championships.

Crash victim ... France's Alexis Vastine was also filming the European reality show when the crash occurred in Argentina. Picture: AP Source: AP

Arthaud, who was 57, was a pioneer in sailing. In 1990, she won the famed Route du Rhum race — a trans-Atlantic single-handed yacht race between Brittany and the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe — on her boat Pierre 1er.

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

The Argentine statement identified the remaining victims as Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Edouard Gilles, as well as Argentine pilots Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate.

French skipper ... Florence Arthaud, who was also killed in the crash. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Argentine authorities were at the scene of the crash late Monday trying to determine its cause.

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

"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.

A rugged, sparsely populated area is on the edge of the Andes mountain range that separates Argentina and Chile. The crash happened around 5:15pm local time (7:15am AEDT), according to Argentine news agency Telam.


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