BORDEAUX - French police on Monday launched a delicate operation to lift a helicopter from a river bed for clues into a crash that is thought to have killed a Chinese tycoon and a French winemaker.
Efforts to find the remains of Lam Kok, a 46-year-old Chinese tea-and-property magnate, his interpreter and financial advisor, Peng Wang, and James Gregoire, a French entrepreneur and the pilot of the helicopter, have been ongoing since Friday, when the aircraft fell into the Dordogne river.
The crash occurred while they had been on a celebratory aerial tour of a chateau estate that the Chinese businessman had just bought from Gregoire.
"We are putting in ballasts which will be inflated at the same time to lift the wreckage," Colonel Ghislain Rety, the head of the gendarmerie in the Gironde region, where the chateau is located, told AFP.
"It's a delicate operation, the aim is to preserve the wreckage in its current form for small details that can explain why it crashed," he said.
Rety said it could be months before the bodies were recovered.
"We can recover them today or in six months but we will find them," he said.
"A body was found on Saturday in the Dordogne, it was a person who had disappeared in the river in April," Rety said, adding that April accident had occurred about 30 kilometres from the site of the helicopter crash.
The investigators conducted a sonar search on Sunday night to scan the river for the bodies.
The scans were to resume Monday along with helicopter searches across a 20-kilometre stretch along the river from where the chopper crashed.