Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 1 News List

France mourns its sports stars killed in Argentina

AFP, PARIS

France was plunged into mourning yesterday after the deaths of three sports stars, including an Olympic champion swimmer and one of the world’s best sailors, in a helicopter crash while filming a reality TV show in Argentina.

Champion sailor Florence Arthaud, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine were among 10 people killed when two helicopters filming the survival series Dropped smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja Province, local officials said.

“The whole of France is in mourning this morning,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

Rioja provincial spokesman Horacio Alarcon said there were no survivors in the crash, which happened in good weather conditions on Monday.

Local media showed the wreckage of the two helicopters in flames on the dry scrubland in the northwestern Argentine province.

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 race to cross the Atlantic solo.

Muffat, 25, was one of the top swimmers in French history, winning three medals at the London Olympics in 2012, including gold in the 400m freestyle.

She shocked the sporting world in June last year by announcing her sudden retirement at the age of 24, exhausted by the long hours of training in the pool.

Vastine, 28, won a bronze medal at the Beijing Games in 2008 in the light welterweight category.

French President Francois Hollande led the tributes, saying the “brutal death of our compatriots is an immense sadness.”

Muffat’s former trainer, Fabrice Pellerin, told French radio station RTL: “I have known her since she was 13 so it’s like I’ve lost someone in my family.”

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