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5 killed in unexplained crash of French military helicopters

French gendarmes mark elements found near the site of an accident near Carces lake, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) northwest of the resort of Saint-Tropez, on February 2, 2018, as they investigate after two army helicopters crashed into each other. 'The helicopters collided. There were three army personnel in one and two in the other. All are dead,' police said in the nearby town of Brignoles, adding that one body had still to be recovered from the wreckage. The Var region prefecture said the helicopters from the army's light aviation division were from a school based at Cannet-des-Maures. / AFP PHOTO / Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

PARIS — Two French military helicopters on a training flight crashed Friday in the woods of Provence from an apparent mid-air collision, killing the five people aboard, officials said.

The crash occurred between the small towns of Cabasse and Carces in the picturesque southern French region of Var, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Saint-Tropez.

A police official said the two aircraft collided. However, prosecutor Xavier Tarabeaux said cautiously that a collision was the working hypothesis “without yet being able to determine where this collision took place and the exact conditions that led to it.”

Police cordoned off roads around the crash site, and some three dozen police and military officials were dispatched to the scene, according to a local gendarme.

The prefect of the Var region, Jean-Luc Videlaine, said three experienced army flight officers and two trainees were killed. There were no survivors.

Debris scattered across two large zones, but the area is uninhabited and no one on the ground was hurt, said the gendarme, who wasn’t authorized to be publicly named.

A spokeswoman for the French army said the helicopters came from the army’s light aviation school based in nearby Le-Cannet-des-Maures. The school includes a special joint training program with German military pilots, and its pilots are sometimes used for firefighting operations in the area.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly visited the school “to share the very charged emotions” and “bear witness to my sadness, pain and my solidarity.” President Emmanuel Macron, in Senegal on Friday, conveyed his “deep respect” for those killed.