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MADRID (Reuters) - Three Spanish civil guards died on Sunday when their helicopter crashed in the northwestern province of Leon as they tried to rescue a mountain climber, a spokesman for the local government said.

The blades of the helicopter brushed the side of a mountain close to the Picos de Europa range. The aircraft slid down the slope, killing the two pilots and a member of a mountain rescue team.

A fourth member of the civil guard had already descended from the helicopter to search for the climber before it crashed. The climber, who had broken his ankle, was eventually taken to hospital by another helicopter.

(Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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