‘Human error’ likely cause of helicopter crash

The tragic collision between two helicopters in Argentina that left ten dead, including eight French nationals, was likely caused by human error, several experts say.

'Human error' likely cause of helicopter crash
The wreckage of one of the helicopters after a crash likely caused by human error, expert say. Photo: AFP

While French investigators head to Argentina to assist in the probe to find the cause of the double helicopter crash, many experts who have viewed video footage of the collision believe human error was to blame.

The crash claimed the lives of ten people – two “experienced” Argentine pilots, and eight French nationals including three sports stars and five members of a TV production crew.

They were in the mountainous region of north-west Argentina for filming of the adventure reality TV show “Dropped” which was to be screened in France this summer.

Hours after the crash happened video footage emerged which showed the two helicopters flying close together before their rotors clipped and both aircraft plummeted to the ground.

French air safety expert Christophe Naudin told The Local he had no doubt it was a mistake by pilots who “were clearly not experienced enough”.

“There’s no other reason to explain the crash apart from human error. I don’t know how much flying they had done but they were clearly not experienced or trained well enough," he said.

“Normally when two helicopters fly together, one is designated the leader and the other follows. They need to be able to see each other at all times. But in this case neither helicopter could see the other."

Jean-Marc Genechesi, who is responsible for air operations at France Helicopters said the coming together of the two machines was unlikely to have been caused by the wind or a mechanical problem.

“The wind by itself is not as dangerous for a helicopter as it would be for a small plane,” he told FranceTVinfo.

“There was wind, but nothing critical for these machines that weigh over two tonnes,” he said. “And we can rule out a mechanical problem because there was no smoke.”

“It looks more like human error. A problem with blind spots. On these devices the pilot is on the right and on his left he has a blind spot, because not all of the cockpit in made out of plexiglass,” Genechesi told France TV Info.

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French sports stars to return home after crash

Four top French athletes and crew from a reality TV show were cleared to return home on Thursday after the tragic helicopter crash which killed 10 cast members and colleagues.

French sports stars to return home after crash
The remains of one of the helicopters that crashed in Argentina, killing ten people. Photo: Screengrab BFM TV

Investigating judge Daniel Herrera gave the green light for Olympic champion swimmer Alain Bernard, figure skater Philippe Candeloro, cycling legend Jeannie Longo and snowboarder Anne-Flore Marxer to return after questioning them about Monday's crash in Argentina's remote northwest.

The final participant on the show, former international and Arsenal footballer Sylvain Wiltord, had already returned to France before the crash.

"I spoke to the people I needed to speak and gathered their testimony and I have decided to allow all members of the production and participants to return to their country," Herrera told AFP.

There were no survivors in Monday's deadly collision between two helicopters that were filming the reality series "Dropped" in the rugged terrain of La Rioja province.

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

An agent for one of the sports stars spoken to Thursday said the entire group would take a Friday night flight to France, arriving in Paris Saturday morning — a plan confirmed by a source close to the case.

A team of officers from France's gendarmerie police force was meanwhile en route to join their Argentine counterparts to comb through the charred wreckage of the helicopters and work to identify the bodies.

Investigators from France's air accident investigation authority, the BEA, as well as helicopter manufacturer Airbus Helicopters and engine maker Turbomeca, are already working at the scene, where they have begun dismantling the aircraft, looking for clues.

Argentine forensic experts are waiting for their French counterparts to arrive to begin identifying the victims' remains, a local coroner said.

Investigators will have to rely on dental records or DNA tests to identify the badly burned bodies, officials say.

"Dropped," which was to air on French channel TF1 but was immediately canceled after the crash, featured sports stars who were taken blindfolded into rugged environments and given 72 hours to get to a place where they could charge a mobile phone.

Initial investigations indicate the crash was caused by human error, officials say.