French billionaire politician Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

French billionaire and politician, Olivier Dassault died in a helicopter crash in north-western France on Sunday.

Dassault, 69 and a father-of-three, died when his helicopter crashed near the upmarket coastal resort of Deauville in northwest France, AFP reported.

Police sources close to the inquiry indicate that the pilot of the AS350 Écureuil helicopter was also killed and that no-one else was on board. The crash had occurred shortly after take-off from “private grounds”.

French President Emmanuel Macron led tributes, saying in a tweet that “Olivier Dassault loved France. Captain of industry, local MP, reserve commander in the air force; throughout his life he never stopped serving our country”.

Macron called his death “a great loss” and sent his condolences to the Dassault family.

Olivier Dassault was the son of industrialist Serge Dassault, whose group builds Rafale war planes and owns Le Figaro newspaper. He was elected to the National Assembly in 2002 and represented the Oise area of northern France.

Forbes magazine estimated that Olivier Dassault was the 361st most wealthy person on the planet in 2020, with a fortune estimated at USD $6 billion.

Dassault’s grandfather, Marcel Dassault, founded Dassault Aviation which made aircraft propellers in World War One.

On Marcel’s death in 1986, Serge Dassault appointed Olivier director of civil aircraft strategy at the company. In 2011 he was appointed chairman of the supervisory board of Groupe Dassault.

Dassault later stepped down from his role on the board to avoid any conflict of interest in his political career.