LIBREVILLE, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The toll of a French military helicopter crash off the coast of Gabon rose to seven, with two others saved and another still missing, according to the latest report.
French Defense Minister Herve Morin declared here on Sunday night that seven out of the 10 soldiers aboard a Cougar helicopter died in the accident, one was still missing and two survived.
"The divers have approached the wreckage and are searching for the missing soldier at the moment," Morin said when he emerged from the Presidential Palace.
The minister did not elaborate on the cause of the worst accident since France deployed troops in Gabon in 1960. But he said a joint investigation was being conducted by French gendarmes and an air accident expert.
Upon his arrival around midday, Morin went to the scene of the crash for an inspection. The wreckage of the helicopter was found 35 meters under the sea off the coast of this West African country.
The crash occurred during a joint military exercise with the Gabonese army. The helicopter splashed into the sea only minutes after it took off from the French marine base Le Foudre.
Earlier on Sunday, the French Forces in Gabon reported that two of thee survivors had died of injuries.
Among the soldiers on board were four crew members and six commandos from the French army's elite 13th Regiment of Dragon Paratroopers.
The commandos were part of the 600 French and Gabonese troops maneuvering in the military drill known as Baptise Ngeri.