France Mourns Deaths of Top French Athletes
Two helicopters collided on March 9 in Argentina killing all 10 people aboard. Among the deaths were three French Olympic athletes.
The helicopters were traveling to northwestern Argentina for the filming of the reality TV show “Dropped” for TFI (French broadcast). The deaths all occurred in mid-air crash.
Among the victims was Florence Arthaud, who sailed across the North Atlantic by herself in 1990. Swimmer Camille Muffat won three medals at the 2012 London Olympics, and Alexis Vastine won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both of these athletes were victims in the devastating crash.
The crash occurred around 5:15 pm, local time, near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province. French officials have announced they will work with Argentinian officials to determine the cause of the crash, which is believed to be that the helicopters collided after a lack of communication on the pilots’ parts. The aviation director of La Rioja, Daniel Gorkich, speculated that the afternoon sun and strong winds at the time may have been a factor.
At the moment of impact “the sun was setting on the Andes mountain range directly in front of them. Also, this is an area with wind gusts,” Gorkich said.
Video caught of the crash shows one helicopter’s blades hitting the rails of the other, causing both to loss control and ultimately crash.
The deaths of the French athletes come as a complete shock for France as the nation grieves with an outpour of support coming from French, and other national athletes, alike.
“The brutal demise of our compatriots is an immense sadness,” said French President Francois Hollande in a statement.
“I don’t have words to express the pain I feel, the tears are flowing and won’t stop,” former French sprinter Muriel Hurtis – a gold medalist in the 4 x 100 relay at the 2003 world championships.
Laurent Sbansnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert, and Edouard Gilles were among the other French victims. The pilots killed were Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate.