(Updates death toll to six, adds detail, changes dateline)
MARSEILLE, France, July 25 Six employees of
aircraft maker Eurocopter w ere killed when their helicopter
crashed in a mountainous region of southeast France on Wednesday
during a test flight, police and company officials sa i d.
The crash occurred around 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) in a steep
section of the Verdon Gorge in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
region near the border with Italy, according to local police.
Police said a preliminary investigation suggested the
helicopter may have hit an electric cable.
Eurocopter, a unit of European aerospace group EADS
, said in a statement that the downed aircraft was a
Cougar AS532 AL helicopter and that six people were on board.
It had taken off shortly before the crash from a heliport
near the Mediterranean port city of Marseille for a test flight
before delivery to a client.
The six people on board were company employees and included
test engineers, a Eurocopter spokeswoman said.
Police said search teams were at the site investigating the
cause of the crash.
"The accident occurred in a place that's very difficult to
access, which is complicating our work," Benoit Gounine, a
regional police lieutenant, told Reuters.
Eurocopter's website described the helicopter as a military
aircraft that can accommodate 25 combat-ready troops or be used
for search and rescue, medical evacuation or fire support
missions, among other uses.
The Verdon Gorge is a stunning river canyon, popular with
hikers, that runs up to 700 metres (2,300 feet) deep.
(Reporting by Francois Revilla in Marseille and Gerard Bon in
Paris; Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Louise Ireland)