UK & World News

  • 21 December 2013, 17:49

Billionaire Feared Dead In Helicopter Crash

A Chinese billionaire and his young son are among four people feared dead after the helicopter from which they were viewing his newly-purchased French chateau crashed into a river.

Lam Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, had just bought Chateau de la Riviere, a major Bordeaux vineyard.

The accident happened at the end of a festive day marking Thursday's sale of one of the region's oldest wine estates reportedly worth 30m euros (25m).

He and his 12-year-old son were on the helicopter piloted by James Gregoire, the former owner, when the accident happened on Friday. An interpreter was also a passenger.

Emergency workers pulled a still-unidentified body from inside the helicopter after finding the wreckage in the Dordogne river, said local officials.

A large search operation was called off just before midnight with the helicopter's other three occupants still missing. The search is due to resume.

Lam Kok's wife had pulled out of the aerial tour at the last minute, saying she was "scared of helicopters", said a photographer at the event.

After a press conference, an introduction to the staff and dinner, Mr Gregoire was taking his buyer on a short tour of the 65-hectare (160-acre) vineyards and surrounding grounds.

When they did not return after 20 minutes, employees at the vineyard contacted emergency services.

A major search operation was launched using emergency helicopters, inflatable boats, rescue divers and around 100 officers on foot.

Emergency workers managed to locate the wreckage in the river after police received a call from a witness who had seen the helicopter go down.

A previous owner of the Chateau de la Riviere, Jean Leprince, was killed in a plane crash in 2002.

Mr Gregoire bought the property, the largest in Bordeaux's Fronsac wine-producing region, the following year.

Earlier on Friday, the vineyard's managing director, Xavier Buffo, said during a press conference the sale marked the largest Chinese investment in Bordeaux property to date.

Hong Kong-based Brilliant, which specialises in rare teas and luxury hotels in China, had said it wanted to turn the chateau into a high class tea and wine tasting centre with a hotel nearby.

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