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Seven French soldiers killed in crash, one still missing

Article published on the 2009-01-19 Latest update 2009-01-19 09:48 TU

Search operations off the Gabon coast in western Africa.(Photo: French Ministry of Defense)

Search operations off the Gabon coast in western Africa.
(Photo: French Ministry of Defense)

Seven French soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of Gabon in western Africa on Saturday. Search operations continue for one remaining missing person.

Defence Minister Hervé Morin said his ministry was going to do, “everything we can to find the last person.”

Location of Gabon.(Picture: Wikipedia)

Location of Gabon.
(Picture: Wikipedia)

The Cougar helicopter crashed 50 kilometres from the coast of Gabon, a former French colony, after taking off from the carrier Le Foudre.


Two survivors from the crash were recovered; however, another soldier died in hospital in the Gabonese capital Libreville.

There is no information on the cause of the crash, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered an inquiry.

“This type of helicopter does not have a black box,” said General Claude Reglat, commander of the French forces in the country. “So the flight was not recorded, nor were the voices in the cockpit. So some elements will remain unknown.”

“We have expressed our compassion and solidarity to the families,” said Reglat.

Defence Minister Morin was dispatched immediately and met family members and colleagues of the soldiers at Camp DeGaulle, one of four permanent French military bases in Africa.

Using sonar and underwater robots, divers located the wreckage, which lies 35 metres below the sea off the coast of Nyonie, half-way between Libreville and Port Gentil.

About 1,000 French troops are currently in Gabon.