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French billionaire Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

French politician and businessman Olivier Dassault died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Normandy, France. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT
French politician and businessman Olivier Dassault died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Normandy, France. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT

March 8 (UPI) -- French billionaire and politician Olivier Dassault has died, France's President Emmanuel Macron said. He was 69 years old.

In a tweet on Sunday, Macron called the member of parliament's sudden death "a great loss" for the country.

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"Olivier Dassault loved France," Macron said. "Captain of industry, deputy local elected official, reserve commander in the air force: during his life, he never ceased to serve our country."

Dassault died Sunday evening when his helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from near Deauville in Normandy where he owned a vacation home, French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

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Le Figaro is a subsidiary of the Dassault Group, which was led by Olivier's father, Serge Dassault, who died in 2017.

Delphine Mienniel, the prosecutor of the Republic of Lisieux, also confirmed that the aircraft's pilot had died in the crash.

The nation's Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority identified the helicopter on Twitter as an AS350 Ecureuil, stating it went down after taking off from private land. It has also opened an investigation into the incident and five investigators have been deployed to the site.

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Dassault was a member of the National Assembly representing the constituency of Oise in Northern France and an heir to the Dassault aerospace company. According to Forbes, at a value of $7.3 billion, Dassault was the 333rd richest man in the world.

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Jean Castex, the prime minister of France, described Dassault in a tweet as a humanist, a visionary entrepreneur and "a man deeply committed to his country."

"He will be missed by all who, like him, loved France deeply," he said.

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