Who Was Olivier Dassault? Manslaughter Charges After French Billionaire Dies in Chopper Crash

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French billionaire Olivier Dassault, a scion of France's famed Dassault Aviation, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The 69-year-old third generation aviation mogul was also a member of France's National Assembly.

Dassault's helicopter, an Aerospatiale AS350 Ecureuil, crashed around 6 pm near the Normandy coastal resort of Deauville in northern France. BEA, the national air crash investigation agency, said the crash had happened shortly after take-off, though the weather in Deauville was sunny.

Olivier Dassault
Olivier Dassault Sebastian Mittermeier/Wikimedia Commons

Reports said the pilot of the chopper, which took off from 'private grounds' also died in the mishap. There was no one else on board except the pilot and Dassault. French media reported, citing officials, that an involuntary manslaughter investigation has been initiated.

Who was Olivier Dassault?

Olivier Dassault was the grandson of Marcel Bloch, the legendary French aeronautical engineer who was once imprisoned in Nazi Germany for refusal to share aircraft technical know-how with the Germans during the World War II.

Olivier' father, Serge Dassault, took the company to greater heights. Dassault now makes the Falcon private jet and the Mirage warplane, besides the most sought after Rafale fighter jets.

Olivier was expected to take the reigns of Dassault Aviation and had once controversially called himself the most qualified of the four sons of Serge to take control of the company. However, Olivier later on turned his focus on right wing politics and became a member of the French parliament. Dassault has been an MP for the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) since 2002, representing Oise department in northern France.

Serge Dassault died in 2018 without formally naming an heir. According to the Forbes magazine, Olivier Dassault was the 361st richest person on Earth in 2020, with an estimated wealth of around $6 billion.

As member of the Dassault clan, Olivier also had a stake in the family vineyard in Bordeaux and prominent right-wing newspaper Le Figaro.

Macron Mournes Death of Olivier

French President Emmanuel Macron mourned the death of Olivier. Macron said Dassault was captain of industry who "never stopped serving our country", according to France 24.

"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 tweeted.

Former French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Dassault was a humanist MP, a visionary entrepreneur and a man deeply committed to his country.

"I am thinking of his family and loved ones who must feel terrible pain," tweeted Richard Ferrand, president of the French National Assembly.