French billionaire Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

Olivier Dassault served as an MP for the Republican party -  WireImage
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French billionaire and long-serving MP Olivier Dassault died in a helicopter crash Sunday.

The private helicopter went down while flying over Touques near the seaside resort town of Deauville in northern France around 6 p.m. It’s believed the pilot also died in the crash.

President Emmanual Macron paid tribute to Dassault on Twitter, calling his death a great loss.

“Olivier Dassault loved France. Captain of industry, deputy, local elected official, reserve commander in the air force: during his life, he never ceased to serve our country, to value its assets.

"His sudden death is a great loss. Thoughts [with] his family and loved ones.”

Rescuers arrives at the scene of the helicopter crash - AFP
Rescuers arrives at the scene of the helicopter crash - AFP

Dassault was an expert fighter pilot as a young man and served various roles within his family's international aerospace company, Dassault Aviation, which builds 10,000 military and civil aircraft, including the Rafale fighter plane and also owns Le Figaro newspaper.

He stepped down from the company to enter politics and served as an MP for the Republican party representing the Oise area since 2002.

Dassault was listed as the 361st richest person on the planet on Forbes magazine’s 2020 list, with a fortune estimated at around 5 billion euros.

In a tweet, France’s Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority revealed that the fatal accident involved an AS350 Écureuil and that it happened during take-off from private property. Dassault has a holiday home in Deauville and was returning to Oise on Sunday night.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into involuntary manslaughter. Dassault was a father of three.