French sport pays tribute to stars killed in Argentina

Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:09am EDT
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - The French sporting world paid tribute on Wednesday to the three stars killed in a helicopter crash in Argentina during filming of a reality TV show earlier this week.

As sports officials, relatives and friends paid respects at the Paris headquarters of the national sports institute, INSEP, local media focused on the possibility that pilot error caused the crash that killed yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic swimming gold medalist Camille Muffat and Olympic bronze boxer Alexis Vastine.

"French sport has lost three stars who shone ... these stars will live on as three markers in the collective memory," said Thierry Braillard, junior minister for sports town and youth affairs.

In all, 10 people -- eight French, two Argentines -- died when two helicopters collided at low altitude in the remote western Argentina province of La Rioja on Monday afternoon. There were no survivors in the accident at around 5.15 p.m. local time (4.15 p.m. ET).

Beyond ministers and sports federation bosses present at the Paris tribute was Alain Vastine, father of Olympic light welterweight boxer Alexis, whose sister died in a car crash in January.

"To lose two children in two months -- life is unfair," Alain Vastine, sobbing, told French TV news channel i>TELE. He watched at INSEP headquarters as friends laid flowers before enlarged photographs of the three dead sports stars and a minute of silence was held.

Speaking of his lost son, who vehemently disputed decisions that eliminated him respectively at the semi-final stage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the quarter-finals of the 2012 London Games, Vastine added: "The kid was just so unlucky."

French air accident investigators have headed to Argentina to try to establish what exactly happened and French judicial magistrates have been asked to open an inquiry too.

Two pilots and several members of the ALP-TV production company involved in filming the adventure show "Dropped" for private French TV station TF1 TFFP.PA were among the dead.   Continued...

 
The portraits of (LtoR) French yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat are seen during a tribute ceremony at the training headquarters of INSEP (National Institute for Sport and Physical Education) in Paris, March 11, 2015.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann