France mourns stars as experts probe crash

French air investigators headed to Argentina on Wednesday to probe a deadly helicopter crash that left ten dead. Meanwhile France continues to mourn the victims, among whom were three French sports stars.

France mourns stars as experts probe crash
Investigators piece through the wreckage of the crash in Argentina. Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP

French air investigators headed Wednesday to Argentina to probe a collision between two helicopters which killed ten people, including three of France's best-known sports personalities, as they took part in a reality TV show.

The two French officials will join Argentine investigators who are already combing through the wreckage, looking for clues to what caused the helicopters to smash into each other shortly after takeoff in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province.

The crash on Monday killed Olympic champion swimmer Camille Muffat, yachtswoman Florence Arthaud and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine, as well as five French TV crew members and two Argentine pilots.

Emergency workers removed the victims' remains from the wreckage near the small northwestern town of Villa Castelli on Tuesday and took them to the morgue in the provincial capital, about 300 kilometers (200 miles) from the crash site.

The victims' bodies were burnt beyond recognition, provincial security secretary Luis Cesar Angulo told AFP.

There were no survivors in the crash, which authorities said happened in good weather.

French prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation — standard procedure when a French citizen dies abroad.

"Dropped", which was to air on French channel TF1 later this year, involved eight sports stars being dropped in the wild for a survival contest.

Video taken from the ground showed the two helicopters flying extremely close together, then their rotors clipping and both aircraft plummeting to the ground.


 'One helicopter swerved off course'

Franck Firmin-Guion, head of Adventure Line Productions (ALP) that is making the show, said: "Suddenly, (one of the helicopters) swerved off course and hit the other one."

It was the worst accident in the history of reality television.

French President Francois Hollande led the tributes, expressing his "immense sadness."

In the southern French city of Nice, where swimmer Muffat lived, mourners lit candles beneath a large poster of a smiling Muffat wearing her three medals that was hung outside city hall.

At dusk, hundreds of people gathered in a public park to pay tribute to the swimmer.

A tearful tribute was also held for Vastine in his hometown in Normandy.

Paris Saint-Germain players plan to wear black armbands in their Champions League match against Chelsea on Wednesday.

Production halted

Participants in "Dropped" were taken blindfolded into "inhospitable environments" and given 72 hours to get to a place where they could charge a cellphone, said the mayor of Villa Castelli, Andres Navarrete.

Other sports stars taking part — none of them involved in the accident — were former France and Arsenal football star Sylvain Wiltord, Olympic champion swimmer Alain Bernard, cyclist Jeannie Longo, snowboarder Anne-Flore Marxer and figure skater Philippe Candeloro.

Production company ALP said it would immediately halt filming and repatriate the teams.

ALP was involved in another French reality TV accident in 2013, when a contestant in the survival show "Koh-Lanta" died of a heart attack in Cambodia and a doctor on the crew then committed suicide.

France's consul general in Argentina, Raphael Trannoy, who visited the morgue where the bodies were taken on Tuesday, told AFP: "Our aim is to do what we can to get those who want to return to France home as soon as possible, but we have to respect local legal procedures because witnesses are likely to be questioned by investigators."

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Hollande would say ‘non’ to any TV survival show

French President Francois Hollande said he would not take part in a TV survival show like Barack Obama, joking his time in office was already close enough to an endurance test in the wilderness.

Hollande would say 'non' to any TV survival show
François Hollande and Barack Obama seen here not discussing appearing in a reality TV show. Photo: AFP
French President Francois Hollande said he would not take part in a TV survival show like Barack Obama, joking his
time in office was already close enough to an endurance test in the wilderness.
“I did not know that there were shows like that,” Hollande told journalists during his bi-annual press conference, who asked him if he would consider taking part in a survival reality programme.
“I thought I had been taking part in this show since 2012 and I thank you for being the presenter,” he said, provoking laughter from reporters.
However “reality is sufficiently cruel, sufficiently heavy going and sufficiently demanding not to put oneself on display.”
American TV chain NBC announced in late August that while Obama was on a trip to Alaska to raise awareness about climate change, he would film an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.”
Grylls, a former trooper with Britain's Special Air Service (SAS), is famous for eating insects and drinking his own urine or animal blood to survive on his television show “Man vs Wild”.
His new series sees him take celebrities such as Kate Winslet and Channing Tatum on adventures in the wildest parts of the world.
Hollande's first three years in office have at times been worthy of a reality TV show.
Dogged by a struggling economy, his popularity plunged to historical lows and his image was further tarnished as his personal life exploded into the tabloids.
In 2014 glossy magazine Closer published photos of Hollande sneaking to a tryst with French actress Julie Gayet, prompting his split with long-term partner Valerie Trierweiler.
Trierweiler then published a scathing tell-all book about her relationship  with the president.
Hollande's popularity inched upwards over his handling of a devastating Islamist attack in Paris in January that left 17 people dead, most of them gunned down in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
However a poll published last week showed that only 20 percent of French voters would like to see him re-elected in 2017.