Investigators in Argentina Sift Through Wreckage of Helicopters

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VILLA CASTELLI, Argentina — Investigators picked through the wreckage of two helicopters Tuesday, removing cellphones, bits of paper and other charred items, as France mourned the loss of prominent athletes in the dual crash in northwestern Argentina.

Eight French nationals and two Argentine pilots on the two aircraft were killed when they collided and burst into flames shortly after taking off Monday near the remote settlement of Villa Castelli. Among the victims were Olympic champion swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic bronze-medalist boxer Alexis Vastine and pioneering sailor Florence Arthaud — all contestants on the reality TV show "Dropped."

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French officials said they would work with Argentine investigators to determine the cause of the accident. La Rioja's aviation director, Daniel Gorkich, told The Associated Press that both pilots were highly trained and he speculated that afternoon sun and strong winds might have been a factor.

Expressions of grief poured in from French athletes and officials. Vastine's death was a terrible loss, said Dominique Nato, the former technical director of the French Boxing Federation. "It feels like I've lost a member of my family...He was like my little brother."

William Forgues, Muffat's companion, told i-Tele cable news channel that Muffat had been instructed not to reveal details about the show's filming. But she "told everybody that it was great," he said. "She was not forced (to do things). She was where she wanted to be."


— The Associated Press