Olympian Camille Muffat Among French Athletes Killed In Argentina Helicopter Crash
Two helicopter crashes in Argentina Monday night left 10 people dead, including three celebrated French athletes. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic bronze medalist boxer Alexis Vastine, and pioneering sailor Florence Arthaud were killed in the dual crash while filming a reality TV show.
The tragedy reportedly occurred in a rural part of the South American country, where the athletes were going to be placed as part of the reality TV show's theme. Called Dropped, the French TV show leaves participants in remote areas, forcing them to find their way back on their own.
The New York Times, citing local Argentine news outlets, reports that the two helicopters carrying the three athletes and crew hit each other mid-air, triggering an explosion. About 80 people in all were in the remote region near the Argentine-Chilean border, working on the reality TV show, The Times reports.
A decorated Olympian by the time she reached her mid-20s, Camille Muffat was one of France's most adored athletes. The swimmer clinched the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle at 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, where she also took home silver and bronze medals. While competing in the 400-meter freestyle, and at just her second Olympics, Muffat set a new Olympic record. She also became the third Frenchwoman in history to win three medals at a single Olympics.
Several months after the 2012 Summer Olympics, Muffat became a World Record holder in the 800-meter freestyle. She claimed that title until August 2013. At the time of the helicopter crash, Muffat, who recently retired from competitive swimming, was just 25 years old.
As a boxer, Alexis Vastine was preparing for his third Summer Olympics, having competed twice before and winning the bronze medal in the light welterweight division at the 2008 games in Beijing. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Vastine was defeated in the quarter-finals.
Vastine was a popular sports figure in his native France. He was hoping that the Summer Olympics in 2016 would be his comeback, where he could finally clinch Olympic gold.
Vastine was just 28 years old.
A transoceanic sailor who became a prominent symbol for French women in sports, 57-year-old Florence Arthaud was something of a pioneer. In 1990, Arthuad won the Route du Rhum, a transatlantic yacht race with a course that stems from France to Guatemala. She was the first woman to win the prestigious race — and to this day, the only woman. According to The Telegraph, the win gave her the nickname, "fiancée of the Atlantic."
French President Francois Hollande expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the victims in a statement on Tuesday. "The sudden death of our compatriots is an immense sadness," Hollande said. The president added that the three athletes "did so much to shine for France."
Hollande also confirmed that eight out of the 10 crash victims were French nationals, several of whom were employees of the ALP production company.
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