French aviation billionaire, pilot die in helicopter crash

PARIS (AP) — A French billionaire aviation industrialist and member of parliament has died in a helicopter crash along with the pilot, authorities said.

Olivier Dassault, 69, was heir to a powerful family business empire that made Falcon private jets and Rafale fighter planes and owned many other businesses including Le Figaro newspaper.

A judicial inquiry for eventual manslaughter charges is under way after Sunday’s crash in the town of Touques in Normandy, according to the regional prosecutor’s office in Lisieux.

The French national air accident investigation agency, the BEA, said the Airbus AS350 helicopter crashed just after takeoff from a private airfield. BEA investigators were traveling to the site Monday.

Forbes magazine listed Olivier Dassault as one of the world’s top 500 richest people in 2020. He held executive positions at the family-owned Dassault Group as well as serving in the lower house of parliament as a lawmaker from the conservative Republicans party since 2002.

President Emmanuel Macron paid homage in a tweet to a “captain of industry, parliament member, local elected leader, air force reserve officer” and said “his brutal death is a great loss.”