Italian police have arrested the French flight instructor who survived a deadly mid-air collision that killed seven people in Italy’s Val d’Aosta region on Friday.
Prosecutors believe Philippe Michel, 63, was on a training flight with two passengers and attempting to land on the Rutor glacier when their ultralight aircraft collided with a helicopter, which was lifting off from the glacier after picking up a tourist group at the end of a day of heli-skiing.
It is unclear who was at the controls of the French aircraft at the time of the crash. Mr Michel, who is currently recovering in a local hospital, could face charges of negligence and manslaughter.
Italian aviation authorities have said the aircraft had crossed into Italian territory on Friday without communicating a flight plan to Italian air traffic control.
The remains of the helicopter were spread over a 400-metre area, said Alpine Rescue director Paolo Comune, with bodies recovered from about 50 metres from the wreckage.
Italian police on Sunday confirmed seven people were killed in the mid-air collision in the Italian Alps on Friday, including four Germans. The other victims were from Italy, France and Belgium.
"We can’t reveal the names because some of the families still don’t know," one official at the joint office of Alpine rescue and police in Entreves, in the Aosta Valley, told Reuters.
One other survivor, a German, is being treated in the same hospital as Mr Michel.
“Miraculously the two survivors are conscious and in stable condition, though with multiple traumas and contusions,” said Luca Cavoretto,. a local emergency services director. “They are able to collaborate, perhaps more in the coming days, as right now their memories are very confused.”
The helicopter pilot has been named as Maurizio Scarpelli, 53, a veteran pilot from Tuscany who often worked with journalists.
His passengers are believed to have included Frank Henssler, 49, well-known German mountain guide who had worked for years in the Aosta valley.
Tributes to both men poured in over the weekend.
“Without him I would not have become who I am,” Massimo Sestini, an Italian photographer, said in the Turin daily La Stampa.
He said the veteran pilot had flown him over the destruction left by the L’Aquila earthquake, the scene of the Mafia car bomb that killed Italian magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Tom Cruise’s wedding at a castle near Rome.
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