French billionaire politician Olivier Dassault has been killed in a helicopter crash, according to parliamentary and probe sources.
The private helicopter crashed on Sunday afternoon in Normandy, where he has a holiday home, a police source said.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the 69-year-old, saying on Twitter that Dassault “never ceased to serve our country, to value its assets. His sudden death is a great loss”.
Olivier Dassault aimait la France. Capitaine d’industrie, député, élu local, commandant de réserve dans l’armée de l’air : sa vie durant, il ne cessa de servir notre pays, d’en valoriser les atouts. Son décès brutal est une grande perte. Pensées à sa famille et à ses proches.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 7, 2021
Translation: Olivier Dassault loved France. Captain of industry, deputy, local elected official, reserve commander in the air force: during his life, he never ceased to serve our country, to value its assets. His sudden death is a great loss. Thoughts to his family and loved ones.
Sources close to the crash enquiry said the pilot of the helicopter was also killed, and that no one else was on board.
Dassault was the eldest son of French billionaire industrialist Serge Dassault, whose group builds the Rafale war planes and owns Le Figaro newspaper.
A lawmaker for the conservative Les Republicains party since 2002, Dassault was considered the 361st richest man in the world alongside his two brothers and sister, with wealth of about 6 billion euros ($7.15bn) mostly inherited from his father, according to the 2020 Forbes rich list.
He stepped down from his role on the board of Dassault due to his political role to avoid any conflict of interest.
Olivier, seen as the favourite of founder Marcel, was once considered favoured to succeed Serge at the head of the family holding, but that role went to former Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne.
“Great sadness at the news of the sudden disappearance of Olivier Dassault,” Valerie Pecresse, a conservative politician who is president of the Paris region, said on Twitter.
“A businessman, but also a renowned photographer, he had a passion for politics in his blood, rooted in his department of Oise. My warm thoughts to his family.”
“I am thinking of his family and loved ones who must feel terrible pain,” said Richard Ferrand, president of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament in which Dassault served as a representative for the Oise area of northern France.
Many of Dassault’s colleagues on the political right also paid tribute.