independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Tycoon killed in copter crash

A Chinese billionaire and a French wine-maker have been killed in a helicopter crash after going on a flight to celebrate the sale of a Bordeaux chateau.

Lam Kok, 46, a hotel magnate who had diversified into wine, was killed along with his 12-year-old son when the helicopter plunged into the Dordogne river near the town of Lugon-et-l'Ile-du-Carnay.

The helicopter was being piloted by James Gregoire, who had just sold Mr Kok the 150-acre Chateau de la Riviere.

Another body, believed to be that of an interpreter, was retrieved during police searches that continued yesterday.

Mr Lam's wife, Liu Xiangyun, who had earlier posed for photographs with the two men, pulled out of the flight at the last minute, saying she was "scared of helicopters", according to eyewitnesses.

In a twist of fate, a previous owner of the Chateau de la Riviere was also killed in an aircraft crash in 2002.

Mr Gregoire's helicopter was on a short tour of the vineyard and the grounds of the chateau, which dates to the 8th Century and is associated with Emperor Charlemagne.

Earlier in the day, Mr Gregoire had introduced Mr Lam to the chateau staff and hosted a dinner for him, as well as putting on a press conference for local media.

When the helicopter flight did not return after 20 minutes, people at a subsequent event contacted the emergency services, who launched a search using emergency helicopters, police dogs and around 100 officers on foot. Witnesses to the crash said that they saw two people struggling in the river, which was in full winter flow.

Michel Galardini, 58, a local duck hunter, told Sud Ouest, the local newspaper: "The helicopter was flying very low, only 10 or 15 metres over the water. I thought that was a bit strange."

A few minutes later, he added, he heard a "deafening crash". "There was a huge amount of foam and I could see two people struggling in the water."

Gendarmerie officials said that mangled parts of the helicopter's fuselage had been retrieved, but that strong currents in the icy waters were complicating the search for the three missing people.

© Telegraph

Irish Independent

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