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Two dead in French military copter crash

A French soldier injured in a military helicopter crash off the coast of Gabon died , bringing the death toll to two as rescuers kept up the search for six missing, the general staff said.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2009 19:12 IST

A French soldier injured in a military helicopter crash off the coast of Gabon died on Sunday, bringing the death toll to two as rescuers kept up the search for six missing, the general staff said.

The Cougar transport helicopter was carrying 10 soldiers, including six special forces paratroopers, when it went down in the sea shortly after take-off from the French seaplane carrier La Foudre on Saturday.

The ten were among some 600 soldiers taking part in a joint maritime security exercise called Operation N'Gari during which men were to be parachuted onto predetermined targets.

The soldier died in hospital in the Gabon capital of Libreville, said Lieutenant Colonel Francois-Marie Gougeon, spokesman for the general staff.

Another soldier suffered slight injuries and a fourth was pulled from the water safe and sound.

Rescuers were trying to find survivors today off the coast of Nyonie, a town located half-way between Libreville and the port city of Port-Gentil.

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.

President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered that "all available means in the area be immediately deployed to find the soldiers who were on board" and dispatched Defence Minister Herve Morin to Gabon.