|Rescue teams scour the Dordogne river in Lugon-et-l’Ile-du-Carnay, southwesternFrance, yesterday after a helicopter carrying a Chinese tycoon overflying his newlypurchased vineyard went down with three others. The body of Lam Kok’s 12-year-old son was pulled out of the river but there was little hope that the Chinese businessman, a French winemaker and their interpreter could have survived. Four dinghies were scanning the water as divers went under and police dogs combed the river bank. (Photo/Shanghai Daily)|
Four people were feared dead including a Chinese billionaire and his 12-year-old son after the helicopter in which he was surveying his newly purchased French vineyard crashed into a river.
The Hong Kong-based Chinese billionaire Lam Kok, 46, owner of the Brilliant Group, was in the helicopter surveying the 65-hectare vineyard in Bordeaux, Chateau de la Riviere, one of the oldest chateaus, which he had just purchased with great fanfare.
Late yesterday, rescue teams scoured the Dordogne river in southwestern France.
The body of Lam Kok’s 12-year-old son was pulled out of the river and there was little hope that the businessman, the French winemaker who sold him his chateau and their interpreter could have survived.
It was the largest Chinese investment in Bordeaux so far, Xavier Buffo, the vineyard’s managing director said on Friday.
The Chinese billionaire paid around 30 million euros (US$41 million), Deng Zhongxiang, a French trained Chinese winemaker at Ningxia Lilan Winery told Shanghai Daily.
The accident happened in the evening after a press conference announcing the acquisition of the vineyard.
James Gregoire, who sold the vineyard was among those feared dead.
An AFP photographer at the press conference said Lam Kok’s wife pulled out of the aerial tour at the last minute, saying she was “scared of helicopters.” He said Gregoire carried out his pre-flight procedures, a check-list resting on his knees.
When the chopper did not return after 20 minutes, employees at the vineyard contacted emergency services.
A witness told the police he saw a helicopter falling in the river.
French paramilitary police said mangled parts of the chopper’s fuselage had been retrieved but said strong currents were complicating the search for the three missing.
Four dinghies were scanning the water near the site of the crash as divers went under and police dogs combed the river bank.
Brilliant Group runs its businesses from Chinese Pu’er in Yunnan Province and is known for its rare fermented tea and high-end resorts.
Lam had planned to turn the chateau into a wine and tea tasting center.
The group also planned to build a hotel near the vineyard.
Coincidentally, a previous owner of the chateau, Jean Leprince also died in a plane crash nine years ago.
In recent years, there have been more Chinese billionaires investing in vineyards in Bordeaux. “Chinese buyers have bought around 50 chateaus in recent two years. However, their acquisitions are not Bordeaux’s best because of the reluctance of many French owners to sell their best vineyards despite good money,” Deng said.