Body found near site of Chinese tycoon Kok Lam's Bordeaux chopper crash

Investigators believe it may be the body of missing Chinese tycoon Kok Lam

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 9:23am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 4:13am

A body has been discovered on the banks of the French river into which a helicopter carrying Chinese tycoon Kok Lam crashed during a tour of his newly acquired Bordeaux wine estate in December.

A resident of nearby SaintAndre de Cubzac found the body on Friday on the banks of the Dordogne River, investigation sources said on condition of anonymity. However, the sources said the body had yet to be confirmed as Kok's.

"The site of the discovery is located between the site of the crash and the place where the bodies of two other passengers were found," an official said.

"But we have to wait for DNA matches as part of the forensic investigation."

Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant Group, had invited the press to his lush new property on December 20 to celebrate his €30 million (HK$318 million) purchase.

He took off on a helicopter tour of the estate - which he intended to turn into an elite tea and wine-tasting retreat - with his son Kok Shun-yu, 12, his financial adviser Wang Peng and the chateau's former owner James Gregoire, who was the pilot. Kok's wife had decided not to go on the doomed flight, reportedly because she was afraid of helicopters.

The body of Kok's son was found a day after the crash, inside the wreckage. The bodies of Wang and Gregoire were found later.

Gregoire, who died in the crash on the day he handed over the property to Kok, had bought the Chateau de la Riviere in 2003 after the previous owner died in a plane crash.

It was reported last month that the December 20 crash may have been caused by the Robinson R44 helicopter running out of fuel.

Pilot error could also have led to the accident, public broadcaster France 3 said, citing sources close to preliminary investigations.

Gregoire told an engineer who had just completed a regular maintenance check 48 hours before the crash that the helicopter needed refuelling.

But apparently it was not refuelled and the two tanks were left almost empty when the helicopter took off, the report said.

Kok's business empire based in Kunming is a household name in Yunnan province.

The group's business activities include upmarket teas, cultural tourism, property development, hotels and resorts, and recently fine French wine.