China offers help after helicopter crash in France; Hong Kong-based billionaire Kok Lam still missing

Hong Kong-based billionaire and two others still missing after Friday's tragedy in Bordeaux

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:25pm

Chinese authorities are helping the search for Hong Kong-based mainland tycoon Kok Lam, who is missing presumed dead after a helicopter crash in the French wine district of Bordeaux.

They will also assist the investigation into Friday's tragedy, a Chinese consulate official said.

French police stepped up their hunt yesterday, but there is little hope of finding the three missing people alive - Kok, his interpreter and adviser Peng Wang, and winemaker James Gregoire.

On Saturday police recovered the body of billionaire Kok's 12-year-old son from the back of the helicopter, which was lying in seven metres of water in the Dordogne River.

The accident happened shortly after a press conference to announce Kok's €30 million (HK$318 million) purchase of a 65-hectare wine-growing estate from Gregoire.

The Frenchman offered to take Kok on a short tour of the vineyards and surrounding grounds in the helicopter. Lam's wife Lau Sheung-wan, also known as Liu Xiang-yan, did not fly as she is scared of helicopters.

Wu Xiaojun, press attaché at the Chinese consulate in Paris, told the Post: "The Chinese government will get closely involved in the search of the missing people and the handling of any procedures that follow.

"Our consular officer Li Ping took the first train from Paris to the scene in Bordeaux yesterday [Saturday] and has met the local police and government."

After calling off the search on Saturday night, divers returned to the river yesterday.

"We are meticulously combing the area, with practically no visibility, almost by hand," police commander Ghislain Rety said.

Helicopters with infrared cameras were scanning the river and a sonar that detects bodies arrived from Strasbourg.

About 100 police were searching the riverbanks and reinforcements were expected.

Kok, 46, headed the Hong Kong-based Brilliant Group. A business friend said Kok's wife is known for turning property projects into successful hotels and spas. It is believed they had two sons and the one killed was the youngest.

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung