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French billionaire politician Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

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Peter Stubley and Sam Hancock
·2-min read
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The billionaire had been a member of France’s National Assembly since 2002 (AFP via Getty Images)
The billionaire had been a member of France’s National Assembly since 2002 (AFP via Getty Images)

Olivier Dassault, the French billionaire politician, has been killed in a helicopter crash.

President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the industrialist’s death in a tribute to the 69-year-old legislator on Twitter.

“Olivier Dassault loved France,” Mr Macron wrote. “Captain of industry, lawmaker, 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 on his family and loved ones.”

The accident happened shortly after 6pm in the Calvados area of the Normandy region of northwestern France on Sunday where Dassault had a holiday home. The pilot, the only other person on board, also died.

While a cause was not immediately clear, investigators with France’s civil aviation authority said in a tweet that the crash occurred “on take-off” from private land.

Police quickly sealed off the scene while the investigation got underway.

Reports in France suggest the Aérospatiale AS350 Écureuil, a popular model of helicopter powered by one jet turbine engine, hit a tree soon after it departed, though officials have not yet confirmed this. Conditions were reportedly fine and the wind low.

Dassault was the eldest son of billionaire Serge Dassault, whose group builds the Rafale war planes and owns Le Figaro newspaper.

He was considered the 361st richest man in the world alongside his two brothers and sister but stepped down from his role on the board of Dassault to avoid any conflict of interest due to his political role.

Dassault had been a member of the National Assembly for the conservative Les Republicains party since 2002.

Valerie Pecresse, a conservative politician who is president of the Paris region, tweeted: “Great sadness at the news of the sudden disappearance of Olivier Dassault.

“A businessman, but also a renowned photographer, he had a passion for politics in his blood, rooted in his department of Oise. My warm thoughts to his family.”

Dassault’s father Serge died of a heart attack in his Paris office at the age of 93 in May 2018.

Additional reporting by agencies

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