Pilot Jean Garat, engineer Michel Escalin and Norbert Savornin, a firefighter, were onboard at the time of the accident, the cause of which has yet to be established. The crew had been flying at night when the control centre lost contact with them; the wreckage of the aircraft was found near the town of Rove at 01:30 hrs.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner and his secretary of state Laurent Nunez said in a statement: “While France is preparing today to pay tribute to 13 of its soldiers who died serving it (in Mali), our country is losing three everyday heroes who gave their lives to protect the French.”
France’s Mediterranean coastal area has been suffering from severe flooding for two weeks, following heavy rain and storms. Three civilians have also died in the floods.