Officials probe into Seoul chopper crash amid rising flight safety in the city

Officials probe into Seoul chopper crash amid rising flight safety in the city

South Korean authorities commenced a full-scale investigation of a helicopter collision with a high-rise apartment building in southern Seoul on Saturday morning that killed two pilots and raised concerns about the safety of flights across the city's rising skyline.

The Ministry of Land and Transport said Sunday that its investigation team has started to analyse the data recorder, or black box, to determine the exact cause of the crash that occurred in dense fog.

"The black box analysis is expected to take about six months," said Kim Jae-young, chief of Seoul Regional Aviation Administration under the transport ministry. "We are going to analyse the device (that recorded) the flight route, altitude and cockpit conversation," he said.

The private chopper owned by LG Electronics Inc. slammed into the upper section of an IPARK apartment building in Samseong-dong, an affluent business-residential area in Seoul's Gangnam district.

The helicopter left Gimpo International Airport at around 8:46am and headed to LG's Jamsil heliport to pick up company executives and transport them to Jeonju on a business trip, according to company officials.

The two pilots ― Park In-kyu, 58, and Koh Jong-jin, 37 ― were killed in the accident. The collision broke windows and damaged the building's exterior walls but left no casualties among residents, according to the Land Ministry.

It was the first time in Korea for a helicopter to crash into a building.

Investigators are likely to focus on whether or not the helicopter lost visibility due to heavy fog as well as whether the pilots were pressured to operate the chopper in poor weather.

The transport ministry said it will work closely with the Air Force to track the path the chopper flied after it took off. Police have also launched a separate probe to question family members about what happened before the helicopter departed from the airport.

The family of Park, the chief pilot, claimed that prior to leaving for the airport, he had reported to the company that the fog was too dense and suggested that the passengers board the helicopter at Gimpo instead, news reports said. He later reported that the weather conditions improved and that he would fly to Jamsil, according to the reports.

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