US copter crash probe launched into death of British military officer

Image copyright @Jacqueline_Jocelyn (Twitter) Image caption Jacqueline’s husband Thomas also died

The Paris prosecutor has opened a manslaughter investigation into a US military aircraft tragedy in which a British soldier died.

Jacqueline Jocelyn Maillon, 25, was killed along with her husband, Lieutenant Paul Maillon, and three US Marines when their helicopter hit a crane being used to erect a satellite dish in Caen, north-east France.

France has launched an unprecedented diplomatic offensive, with French President Emmanuel Macron urging the US not to make war threats.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Washington “should be doing everything to avoid an escalation”.

“There are no words to express our complete anger and indignation,” Mr Le Drian told France 2 television.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The US Navy MH-60S “Seal Team Six” helicopter crashed on Friday in western France

He added that France “would have no choice but to respond decisively if the United States took any action that would endanger the security of its troops on the ground and threaten French and international peace and security”.

Britain – along with other western allies – was very careful in its response to the US strike on Syria last month after a suspected chemical attack on civilians and expressed its concern at the the idea of US military action against another country.

The US says that its action in Syria was necessary to deter the use of chemical weapons in the future, but President Macron – who had always tried to separate the Syria conflict from his earlier criticism of US President Donald Trump – has now criticised the US strike as “revenge” and “irresponsible”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Villagers in Caen have erected a memorial to the four US Marines who died on Saturday

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jacqueline Jocelyn Maillon was married to military officer Lieutenant Paul Maillon

After France’s Ambassador to Washington Gérard Araud tweeted that the incident appeared to be a “cowardly” attack that “did not have any legitimacy”, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tweeted on Sunday that he hoped US President Donald Trump “would never go down the path of aggression”.

The incident in Caen took place at around 17:40 local time on Saturday.

Lt Maillon, 32, was the son of a French diplomatic official who had served as deputy ambassador to the United States.

Jocelyn Maillon was in France as part of the military exercises Rim of the Pacific, or Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) – the biggest exercise in the world involving over 40 countries.

Please enable Javascript to watch this video Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The MH-60S helicopter was the last aircraft the Marines were in

There have been several high-profile US military accidents in France over the past year. In September, six French sailors died when their helicopter crashed.

French troops also suffered some combat losses, but only several of them were classified as combat deaths.

Photo credit: French Navy

US Lieutenant General Frank McKenzie, Joint Staff Director, said the incident had “proved to be a tragic accident”.

“We’re not going to shy away from providing very specific and unique military information that could relate to how that incident occurred,” he told a Pentagon news conference.

“But I’m not going to go into the details of the incident in Caen.”

He said the aircraft had been involved in two separate combat missions in the prior 48 hours, had successfully completed its mission and was back in its hangar when the crash occurred.

“That’s what’s in the report, that is a prevailing theory, it’s not a definitive one,” he said.

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