Two Britons have died in a helicopter crash in the south of France, the Foreign Office said.
Martin Rutty and Simon Lichtenstein, who had both been pilots for some time, came down in the densely wooded Tourrettes-sur-Loup valley.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We were notified of the death of two British nationals in a helicopter crash in Tourrettes-sur-Loup in southern France on December 9. Next of kin have been informed and consular assistance is being provided.”
The two men were directors of helicopter company Fly-Q and had both represented Britain in the World Helicopter Championships.
Mr Rutty, 50, from Little Hereford, and Mr Lichtenstein, 49, from Bircher, both in Herefordshire, were flying the Robinson R22 craft back to the UK after it been on display in an Italian showroom.
They had left the French town of Sospel near the Italian border at 9am on a bright and clear day and were heading towards the picturesque Provencal city of Avignon, but crashed shortly after take-off.
Eyewitness reports indicate that the aircraft suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure, which was exacerbated by strong headwinds.
Herefordshire-based Fly-Q, which the two men set up about three years ago, said in a statement: “It is with sadness that we announce that our dear friends and colleagues, Martin Rutty and Simon Lichtenstein, died…
“Martin and Simon have been long-term pilots, flying together since 1999. They were highly experienced pilots, having held four British championship titles and represented the British Helicopter Team in the past four World Championships, most recently in Belarus. Presently, we do not know who was piloting the helicopter.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with Martin’s and Simon’s families.”