• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:39am
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong-based billionaire Kok Lam feared dead in French helicopter crash

River search for billionaire Kok Lam and two others after 12-year-old son killed as they flew over Bordeaux vineyard to view new purchase

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 11:23am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 11:27am

A billionaire Chinese businessman is missing presumed dead and his 12-year-old son confirmed to have died in a helicopter crash in France's Bordeaux wine region - just 24 hours after they celebrated the €30 million (HK$318 million) purchase of a chateau and vineyard.

A search was continuing last night for Hong Kong-based mainland tycoon Kok Lam, 46. He is thought to have died along with the former owner of the Chateau de la Riviere vineyard, James Gregoire, who was at the helicopter's controls when it crashed into the Dordogne River on Friday night.

The body of Kok's young son was pulled from the river on Friday. An interpreter who was on board is also missing presumed dead.

Hours earlier, Kok and his wife Lau Sheng-wan - also known by her Putonghua name Liu Xiang-yan - were pictured toasting their purchase of the vineyard with Gregoire and his wife. Lau reportedly decided at the last minute not to fly as she is afraid of helicopters.

The tragedy was given even greater poignancy when it emerged that a previous owner of the sprawling 65-hectare estate - the largest in Bordeaux's Fronsac wine-producing region - died in a plane crash in 2002.

Kok heads the Hong Kong-based Brilliant Group and is a member of the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Kok's purchase of the chateau is believed to be the largest Chinese investment in Bordeaux, the famous wine-producing region in southeastern France, and forms part of a growing trend of mainland money pouring into French wineries.

The flight was to mark the sale that had been finalised on Thursday, with Gregoire wanting to show Kok and his son the vineyard from the air. But the helicopter did not return.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in France said consular staff had been sent to the scene. Family members had been contacted and it had set up a 24-hour hotline with the French foreign ministry. In Hong Kong, immigration officials confirmed they were in contact with their relevant counterparts.

Kok's company, registered as Pakluen International Ltd in Hong Kong in 1994, specialises in rare teas and owns high-end luxury resorts in Chongqing, Kunming and Jingmai. On the mainland the company is called Brilliant Group with headquarters in Yunnan province.

In an interview in 2010, the media-shy couple signalled their interest in the wine industry. "I drink [wine], but not much," Kok told New Weekly magazine.

Additional reporting by Lana Lam and Jeffie Lam


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actually Glasgow pub
Anyone who likes riding in helicopters likes gambling with death.
These machines are heavily polluting and inherently dangerous and should be used for emergency purposes only.
According to comparative transport safety records tables published in the United Kingdom for the period 1995-2009, you were 4,600 times more likely to die in a helicopter accident than flying in a fixed wing commercial aircraft per passenger /kilometer.
Its not even safe to have a pint of beer in a pub now in England because the police are likely to come crashing through the roof in a helicopter out of control. A totally unnecessary waste of many lives recently, because of some petrol-head police chiefs ordering routine helicopter patrols over built-up areas.
You have no idea what you are talking about. Small fixed wing aircraft crash all the time.
@captam: You are comparing apples and oranges. It is not really surprising that the likelihood of dying in a helicopter accident per kilometre is larger for a helicopter than for a commerical fixed wing aircraft. Firstly, aircrafts have a longer flight time than helicopter and most accidients happen during take off and landing. It would be more sensible to compare the number of accidents per flight instead. Secondly, helicopters are often used for more dangerous tasks, such as rescue operations or landing on a oil rig, which leads to a larger number of accidents.
It would be sensible to compare the death toll for helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts for similar task. For example, a comparision for short tour flights using a helicopter or a small fixed wing aircraft. Do you have numbers for such a scenario?
He ain't Hong Kong. Period.
I guess 2013 will not be a brilliant year for French wines...
Why is he referred to his first name? His surname is Kok not Lam. Sloppy editing.
Over 95% of helicopter accidents are due to Pilot error not mechanical failure. Inexperienced or over zealous pilots flying beyond their levels of competency, training or experience. Don't just assume the machine is inherently dangerous because it's more likely the "loose link" manning the controls. Your Glasgow accident comments further belie your lack of knowledge. If for nothing else in cash strapped UK, Police helicopters only fly essential tactical missions not general patrols.
@"Secondly, helicopters are often used for more dangerous tasks"
Your second point is right. Merely electing to fly in them is "a more dangerous task".
I repeat. These machines have a valuable and useful function for emergency rescue missions, tracking down dangerous criminals on the run in open country or flying people to extremely remote locations, otherwise , for an essential and GOOD purpose (not sightseeing) . Otherwise they are the world's most fuel-thirsty and polluting machines per passenger-mile. If you care about the environment you cannot possibly support widespread helicopter use.


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