Six people were killed today when a helicopter crashed into an area often referred to as France’s answer to the Grand Canyon, according to officials.
Defence official Francis Mene said the aircraft crashed while carrying out a test flight in the Verdon Gorge in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in south-eastern France.
Stephane Chery, head of international media relations for aviation company Eurocopter, said all six were company employees.
The EADS-owned firm earlier issued a statement confirming the helicopter involved was manufactured by them, adding that they were working on identifying the circumstances and exact cause of the accident.
The rocky, limestone area – seen as France’s answer to the Grand Canyon – is one of Europe’s most beautiful river canyons and extremely popular with tourists and hikers. At 2,297ft (700m) deep, it is also one of Europe’s biggest.
Mr Mene, speaking on French station BFM-TV, said the helicopter crashed “very deep in the gorge” near the village of Aiguines. He did not speculate on the cause of the accident.
Eurocopter is yet to reveal the identities of those involved. There was no-one else on board.