(UPDATED 1:02 PM EST with statement from Zodiak Media)
A tragic helicopter crash in Argentina has claimed the lives of 10 people during filming for the French version of Zodiak Media format Dropped, set to air on TF1.
Among those killed were three French sports stars – Olympic medal-winning swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic medalist boxer Alexis Vastine, and sailor Florence Arthaud – and according to media reports, five members of the production crew working with Adventure Line Productions, the Paris-headquartered prodco behind the French version of the format.
They have been named as Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Eduoard Gilles.
The Argentine pilots of the helicopters, Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate, were also killed.
According to reports, the helicopters collided in mid-air on Monday (March 9) near Villa Castelli, in Argentina’s La Rioja province.
The format, which originated from Zodiak-owned Mastiff Sweden, sees two teams of celebrities taken to some of the most remote locations on the planet, where they must rely on their own wits to make their way back to civilization. The original version of the show, TV4′s The Greatest Adventure, had a 30% audience share for its final episode, and the format has also sold into Norway.
Zodiak Media Group issued a statement on Tuesday (March 10) which read: “Across the entire Zodiak Media group we are incredibly saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts are with everyone involved and their families at this time following the terrible helicopter crash on the ALP production of Dropped in Argentina.
“The information we have to date is that the accident occurred during transportation by helicopter carrying members of cast and crew to the shooting location,” it continued. “A few minutes after take-off, around 5 p.m. on Monday, while the two helicopters were flying in parallel lines, one of them unexpectedly deviated from its course and collided with the other. The first helicopter was filming the second one which was transporting the cast. Amongst the victims, were the three sporting personalities (Florence Arthaud, Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine), five technical crew members who have been collaborating with us on many productions (Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Edouard Gilles) and two highly experienced pilots (Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate).
“As always in the event of an air crash and when French nationals die abroad, a preliminary enquiry has been opened for which the air transportation police is in charge and with whom the production is fully cooperating,” it concluded.
Footballer Sylvain Wiltord, who is also a contestant on the French version of Dropped, shared his grief via Twitter, saying: “I am sad for my friends, I’m shaking, I’m horrified, I can’t find the words, I have nothing to say.”
In a statement attributed to its president, Franck Firmin-Guion, Adventure Line Productions said its employees “share the deep pain of the families and loved ones. We are in contact with the production teams on site [and] with the French and Argentine authorities. We will give more information as soon as possible.”
TF1 issued a brief statement concerning the crash which read: “It is with deep regret that we learned of the accident that took place during filming of the program Dropped. Nonce Paolini [CEO of TF1 Group] and all the teams at TF1 express their deepest sympathy for the pain suffered by the victims’ families and loved ones during this difficult time.” French industrial group Bouygues, which owns 43% of Tf1, also issued a statement of condolence.
Meanwhile, French president Francois Hollande shared his “immense sadness” over the event via Twitter.
Koh-Lanta, the French version of Survivor and also produced by Adventure Line Productions, experienced its own tragic set of circumstances in 2013 with the death of a contestant from a heart attack, and the subsequent suicide of the show’s doctor. The series returned last year.
The incident is also the latest aviation accident that has taken place during filming for a reality program. In 2011, a helicopter being used in the filming of Campus PD crashed near the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with cameraman Greg Jacobsen dying following complications from injuries sustained in the crash. In 2013, three individuals – David Gene Gibbs, Darren Arthur Rydstrom, and Michael William Donatelli
– died in a chopper crash at a filming location in Acton, Los Angeles while shooting a military-themed series for Discovery Channel.
That same year, Canadian factual television director and DOP John Driftmier perished when a small plane he was in during a shoot for Discovery Canada’s Dangerous Flights series crashed in Kenya. The plane’s pilot was also killed.