Copter crash kills 2 French Olympians, elite sailor, 7 others in TV shoot

Two French Olympians killed in a helicopter crash in Argentina while filming a reality TV show

Two French Olympians, an elite French sailor and seven others were killed Monday while shooting a reality TV show in Argentina when two helicopters collided, according to multiple reports.

Olympic medalists, swimmer Camille Muffat and boxer Alexis Vastine, were contestants on the "Survivor"-like French reality TV show "Dropped," when the crash took place in the La Rioja Province in Argentina, a little more than 700 miles north of the country's capital,  Buenos Aires.

In addition, a world-class French sailor was killed along with the two pilots and TV crew.

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

Officials said the cause of the crash was unknown, but weather was not believed to be a factor.

"An explosion occurred, and it's believed that they must have collided,'' La Rioja Secretary of Security Cesar Angulo told the BBC.

The International Olympic Committee expressed its condolences in a statement:

"We are shocked by this sad news. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these great athletes who have left us.

"With them, the world of sport and the Olympic family have lost three of their key members. They were all not only champions in their sport but also contributed greatly as role models.

"The Olympic Movement mourns with their families and friends, their fellow athletes, the French National Olympic Committee and with France."

Muffat, 25, set an Olympic record in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Games. She won gold in the event as well as a silver in the 200-meter freestyle and took bronze in the 4x200-meter relay at the 2012 Olympic Games.

“She had dedicated a lot of her life to swimming to become Olympic champion, and her objective since her retirement was to make a success of her [personal] life,” her friend and agent Sophie Kamoun told the Associated Press. “She had a lot of projects that made her happy, and this show was one of them. I spoke to her on the phone two days ago and she told me she'd spent a fabulous week, one of the best of her life."

Vastine, 28, won the bronze medal in the light-welterweight division at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also competed at the 2012 Games.

"It feels like I've lost a member of my family. He was my friend, he was like my little brother,” Dominique Nato, the former technical director of the French Boxing Federation, told AP. "I had a lot of respect for him, no one will forget him."

Florence Arthaud, 57, a champion sailor considered among the best in the world, was killed in the crash, which also took the lives of two helicopter pilots and members of the TV show's production crew.

Sylvain Wiltord, a two-time Premier League and FA Cup champion with Arsenal, who is also a featured member of the show's cast, tweeted his reaction to the crash: "I'm sad for my friends, I'm trembling, I'm horrified, I have no words, I don't want to say anything."

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:35 a.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from the International Olympic Committee and additional reaction from friends of the deceased.

This story was first published at 10:09 p.m. on March 9.

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