Provence & Côte d'Azur: the aircraft is believed to have struck a power line before crashing in to the mountainous range
Six die in helicopter crash
The EADS-owned company has confirmed that the helicopter was a Cougar AS-532 and was being tested by the group of test pilots and engineers before it was due to be delivered to the Albanian army.
The crash occurred at around 1.40pm and major rescue teams were sent to the scene along with three water-bombing helicopters, but the steep terrain inhibited rescue efforts.
The owner of a hotel in the village of Aiguines, Laurence Fortini, told The Associated Press that she rushed to the hotel’s terrace after hearing a “loud, abnormal sound,” and then saw the helicopter plunge into the river below.
Some media are reporting that the helicopter came down close to a group of hikers and that one person was slightly injured. That information is yet to be confirmed.
The Cougar helicopter had taken off from a heliport near Marseille. A short time later it crashed in a ball of flames close to the village of La Palud sur Verdon in the Alpes de Haute Provence.
The Gorges du Verdon is considered to be Europe’s 'Grand Canyon'. Running at 700 metres deep, its pristine turquoise water and adventurous hiking trails attract thousands of visitors each year.
The identities of the victims are yet to be revealed.