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French aviation billionaire and pilot die in helicopter crash

Olivier Dassault in 2014
French billionaire aviation industrialist Olivier Dassault in Paris in 2014.
(Jacques Brinon / Associated Press)

A French billionaire aviation industrialist and member of Parliament has died in a helicopter crash along with the pilot, authorities said.

Olivier Dassault, 69, was heir to a powerful family business empire that made Falcon private jets and Rafale fighter planes and owned many other businesses, including the national newspaper Le Figaro.

A judicial inquiry into possible manslaughter charges is underway after Sunday’s crash in the town of Touques in Normandy, according to the regional prosecutor’s office in Lisieux.

The French air-accident investigation agency, the BEA, said the Airbus AS350 helicopter crashed just after takeoff from a private airfield. BEA investigators were traveling to the site Monday.

Forbes magazine listed Dassault as one of the world’s 500 richest people in 2020. He held executive positions at the family-owned Dassault Group and served in the lower house of the French Parliament as a lawmaker from the conservative Republicans party since 2002.

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President Emmanuel Macron paid homage in a tweet to a “captain of industry, parliament member, local elected leader, air force reserve officer” and said “his brutal death is a great loss.”


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