French sports stars among 10 killed in Argentine helicopter crash

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - A group of French sports stars participating in a reality TV show were among 10 people killed Monday when their helicopters collided in mid-air while filming in northwestern Argentina.

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

"Apparently, the two helicopters collided as they were filming. There are no survivors," said provincial spokesman Horacio Alarcon.

He said the weather conditions were good and the cause of the crash was unknown.

Eight French passengers and their two Argentine pilots died in the crash, a police source said.

The provincial government later said they included stars Arthaud, 57, Muffat, 25, and Vastine, 28.

The series, which was to air on French television channel TF1, involved eight sports stars being dropped into inhospitable environments for an adventure- and survival-themed reality show.

The provincial government said a cast and crew of around 80 people, mostly French nationals, had descended on the area in recent days to film the series.

Shooting began in late February in Ushuaia, at the southern tip of South America in the glacial landscape of Patagonia.

It then moved to La Rioja, whose scenic mountain landscapes are popular with tourists. The crash happened near the town of Villa Castelli around 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) north of the capital Buenos Aires.

One of the helicopters was provided by the provincial government and the other by the police force in the neighboring province of Santiago del Estero.

Police and firefighters were still working to recover the victims' bodies when night fell, using floodlights to illuminate the area, a police source told AFP.

Officials from the air force, which is in charge of investigating air accidents in Argentina, were en route to the scene.

"It's been four hours since the collision and (the wreckage) is still on fire. There's smoke rising from the helicopters," said a police source at the scene.

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