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French army helicopter crashes, 8 dead or missing

world Updated: Jan 19, 2009 15:48 IST
AFP
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Rescuers scoured the ocean off Gabon on Sunday for six French soldiers missing after an army transport helicopter crashed, killing two soldiers, officials said.

The Cougar helicopter was carrying 10 soldiers, including six special forces paratroopers, when it went down shortly after take-off from the French carrier La Foudre on Saturday while taking part in military exercises with Gabon.

The French military announced that rescuers had pulled three survivors and a body from sea. However one survivor died in hospital in the Gabon capital, Libreville, said Lieutenant Colonel Francois-Marie Gougeon, spokesman for the general staff.

Rescuers were looking for more survivors off the coast of Nyonie, a town half-way between Libreville and the port city of Port-Gentil in the west African nation.

Oil giant Total lent a sonar and under-water robot to a salvage team that helped them locate the wreckage, said Lieutenant Maxime Pietrozycki in Libreville.

"We have located the wreckage, but we don't know for the time being if there was someone inside," he added.

There was no immediate information on the cause of the crash.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin went to Gabon, whose military was also taking part in the search operation.

"Gabon is doing all that it can to help with the search" for possible survivors, Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame told