At least one person has been confirmed killed in a private helicopter crash near a popular nature conservation and educational center in Hong Kong yesterday.
The deceased was identified as 49-year-old lawyer Richard Wong, who was piloting the aircraft.
RTHK reports that Wong had at least three years of experience piloting a helicopter, while Apple Daily reports that he had just renewed his piloting license the same day.
Wong’s helicopter, a Robinson R44, crashed near the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Tai Po just before 5:30pm on Sunday.
An eyewitness, surnamed Fong, told RTHK that he saw the chopper break apart midair moments before it crashed into a slope near the farm.
“I heard the sound of the helicopter blades, then I heard a loud noise, looked at the sky, and saw the rear of the helicopter and the cockpit split apart, and it crashed into a slope behind Kadoorie’s general office,” Fong said.
“When it crashed, there was a lot of smoke, and then I heard a loud bang, and then there was a second bang, and that was when I saw the fire.”
One of the bangs can be heard in a video of the aftermath published by RTHK.
Police temporarily blocked Lam Kam Road outside Kadoorie Farm to facilitate the rescue operation, and Kadoorie Farm posted a notice on their website this afternoon that the farm would be closed from today until Sunday, May 26.
On.cc reported this afternoon that 130 police officers had been dispatched to the scene, including officers from the Police Tactical Unit, the Quick Reaction Force, the Force Search Unit, and the High-Rise Search Team.
Wong’s wife, accompanied by a friend, arrived at Kadoorie Farm just after midnight to identify the body, and left the scene shortly afterwards. Her husband’s body was taken to a mortuary at about 1am this morning.
Jonathan Ho, from the Air Accident Investigation Authority, told reporters last night that the pilot had taken off in the privately-owned helicopter from Shek Kong Airfield in the New Territories at 4:40pm.
In the same press briefing, Chan Shing-lee, a firefighter and divisional officer for New Territories West, said firefighters extinguished the burning wreckage just before 5:45pm, and confirmed that Wong’s body was found about 20 meters away from the nose of the helicopter.
It’s not clear at this point what caused the crash, and an investigation into its cause is underway.