5 dead as French military helicopters collide

Five people aboard two French Army helicopters died Friday after the aircraft collided during a training exercise, the French Defense Ministry said.

A Gazelle helicopter is parked at the French Army's Ealat flying school in southern France on Friday, the same day two Gazelles collided while airborne. At least five people were killed. Photo by Clement Mahoudeau/EPA-EFE
A Gazelle helicopter is parked at the French Army’s Ealat flying school in southern France on Friday, the same day two Gazelles collided while airborne. At least five people were killed. Photo by Clement Mahoudeau/EPA-EFE

A search in a wooded area near France’s Carces Lake where the helicopters crashed, several miles from resort of St. Tropez in southern France, is underway for a sixth person believed to have been aboard.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the collision.

“There were three army personnel in one [aircraft] and two in the other. All are dead,” a police statement said.

Both aircraft were five-seat Gazelles models, owned by Ealat, the French Army’s School of Light Aviation, which trains pilots for the French, German and Spanish militaries. The Gazelle, built in France and Britain, has been in service since 1973 and is currently deployed by the French army in Mali.

The names of those killed were not released, but in a condolence statement issued on Friday, the French Defense Ministry said “the accident occurred during a combat training flight as part of the operational preparation of the Army pilots.”

By Ed Adamczyk