About 30 participants, including swimmer Alain Bernard, skater Philippe Candelero, cyclist Jeanne Longo and Anne-Flore Marxer, were holed up in the Pircas Negras hotel 35 kilometres from the scene of Monday's accident, reportedly devastated by the loss of their comrades.
They could not leave the country until they had been questioned by Argentine Judge Virginia Illanes Bordon.
Emergency workers removed the victims’ remains from the scene near the small north-western town of Villa Castelli on Tuesday and took them to the morgue in the provincial capital, La Rioja, about 300 kilometres away.
France’s consul in Argentina, Raphaël Trannoy, who went to La Rioja to visit the morgue and meet judicial authorities, said he was working to ensure the French nationals could return home as soon as possible.
French experts were expected to arrive at the scene on Wednesday.
As well as eyewitness accounts, La Rioja province security chief will be examining video of the crash, reported RFI’s correspondent in Argentina Marine de la Moissonière.
“Residents se that they saw one of the helicopters hit the other,” she said. “The video confirms that this collision took place. It looks as if the pilot didn’t see the helicopter.”
In this kind of accident “there are two main causes,” commented former pilot Jean Serrat after watching the video. “One would be technical, which would cause one of the helicopters to swerve and hit the other. The second, either because he attentions has been attracted by something else, or because they arrived at an angle where they didn’t see each other, the two helicopter got closer to each other and at some point with draft from one side and the suction of the blades on the other, they were drawn together.”
Someone may have distracted one of the pilots, he told RFI.
“Did someone in the helicopter speak to him […] meaning that he lost concentration for a few moments?”