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Billionaire, son die in France

BORDEAUX – Four people were feared dead on Saturday including a Chinese billionaire and his 12-year-old son after the helicopter in which he was flying over his newly purchased French vineyard crashed into a river.

Lam Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, had just bought a major Bordeaux vineyard in a sale accompanied by great fanfare and was surveying his new property in a helicopter piloted by the former owner when the accident happened on Friday.

Emergency workers pulled a still-unidentified body from inside the helicopter after finding the wreckage in the Dordogne river, said local officials.

A large search operation was called off just before midnight with the helicopter’s other three occupants still missing. Officials said the search would resume on Saturday morning.

The helicopter was flown by James Gregoire, the former owner of the Chateau de la Riviere vineyard, and was carrying the Chinese billionaire, his son and an interpreter.

Lam Kok’s wife pulled out of the aerial tour at the last minute, saying she was “scared of helicopters”. Gregoire meanwhile patiently carried out his pre-flight procedures, a check-list resting on his knees, the photographer said.

The accident happened at the end of a festive day marking Thursday’s sale of the Chateau, one of the region’s oldest estates.

After a press conference, an introduction to the staff and dinner, the former owner was planning to take his buyer on a short tour of the 65-hectare vineyards and surrounding grounds.

When they did not return after 20 minutes, employees at the vineyard contacted the emergency services.

A major search operation was launched using emergency helicopters, inflatable boats, rescue divers and around 100 officers on foot. Emergency workers managed to locate the wreckage in the river after police received a call from a witness who had seen the helicopter go down. (AFP)

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