Europe

Tributes to French sport stars killed in helicopter crash

Scene of helicopter crash during filming for French reality TV show Dropped, 10 March 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The 10 victims were aboard two helicopters which collided in mid-air

Tributes are being paid to the three French sports stars who were among 10 people killed in a helicopter crash during the filming of a French reality TV show in Argentina.

Among the victims were Camille Muffat, 25, a swimmer who won three medals, including gold in the 400m freestyle in the 2012 London Olympics.

Alexis Vastine, 28, was a boxer who won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the light-welterweight category.

Florence Arthaud, 57, was a hugely accomplished sailor.

Many French papers have the story on their front pages: "Between incredulity and horror - French sport is in mourning", says Le Monde, running tributes to all three of the athletes.

Image copyright Le Monde

Le Figaro runs a live page offering the latest developments on the story, such as pictures from the crash site, a tribute from former President Nicolas Sarkozy and - as the search for the causes of the crash continues - a description of Roberto Carlos Abate, who steered one of the helicopters, as an "excellent pilot".

Image copyright Le Figaro

Former French footballer Sylvain Wiltord was a fellow contestant on the show. He paid tribute to the victims, saying he was "sad for my friends, trembling, horrified, lost for words".

Image copyright Sylvain Wiltord

And reactions didn't just come from France. Many athletes from around the world paid tribute. Among them were British swimmer and fellow Olympic medallist Rebecca Adlington and former US Olympian Janet Evans:

Image copyright Rebecca Adlington
Image copyright @janetevans

French Olympic champion Clement Lefert grew up and trained with Camille Muffat in Nice. They both won gold medals on the same day in the 2012 London Olympics. He told the BBC's World Update programme, "she was an amazing swimmer, but also very humble as well." He described her as "my little sister", adding that her loss made it "a sad day for the world, for France and for the sport".

On Twitter, tributes were pouring in under the hashtag #dropped, as well as the athletes' individual accounts - many, such as this, struggling to find words: "Hard to take in ... lost for words ... endless sadness. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families."

Image copyright @pipo_P8

In a poignant image, another offers "one last selfie" of the athletes taking part in the show.

Image copyright @Coco39100

Sports personalities from other disciplines paid their tributes too. French rugby player Benjamin Kayser says "May these great champions and the other victims rest in peace ... my condolences to their families."

British boxer Stephen Smith had fought Alexis Vastine many times.

Image copyright @BenjaminKayser
Image copyright @swiftysmith

Another British boxer, Amir Khan, tweeted: "I'm very sad to hear of the passing of Alexis Vastine. I had the pleasure of competing against him in the amateurs and would like to send my deepest condolences to all his family and friends during this difficult time."

Fellow UK boxer Bradley Saunders, who lost to Vastine at the 2008 Olympics, told the BBC: "As soon as I heard about it, I thought about the Olympic Games when he beat me. And I also thought about the World Championships when I boxed him and I was lucky enough to get the decision against him there. We were always in competitions together but it's crazy to think what's happened and how life can pan out."

Former British long-distance sailor Ellen MacArthur, who once held the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the world, told the BBC that Florence Arthaud had been an inspiration to her and many others in the world of sailing, always displaying an attitude that "the sea was there for the taking".

Most of the comments centre around the three athletes who died, but some pay tribute to the pilots and the film crew as well, while others find short and simple ways to sum up their sentiments.

Image copyright @helene1112
Image copyright @DamainMercereau

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