A Government Flying Service helicopter crashed on a hillside near Tung Chung on Lantau late last night, killing its pilot and a crew member.
This was the Service's first fatal accident since its establishment in 1993.
Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa and Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the incident.
"Their dedication will be long remembered by the community. My deepest condolences go to their families," Mr Tung said.
Investigation to be conducted
He was concerned about the accident and said there will be an investigation.
The Civil Aviation Department has set up a task force comprising representatives from the department, Government Flying Service and aircraft engineering experts to look into the incident.
The security chief said the Government stands ready to provide all possible assistance to their families.
Government Flying Service Controller Brian Butt said 34-year-old pilot Pang Fu-kwok and 31-year-old air crewman Chan Man-tik were highly devoted and committed officers.
Mr Pang had about 4,000 flying hours. He joined the Government seven years ago and is survived by his wife and a son.
Mr Chan had five years' experience and about 2,200 flying hours. He was awarded a bronze medal for bravery in 1992 for his selfless action during a rescue operation.
Mr Butt extended deepest condolences to their families.
In light of the accident, the department immediately checked the four other Eurocopter helicopters of the same model to ensure safety.
Although GFS crew members do get sufficient rest and their aircraft are properly maintained, the department will carry out a review on how to step up flight safety, he added.
Helicopter lost contact bound for Cheung Chau
The helicopter left its base at Chek Lap Kok at about 10.30pm bound for Cheung Chau to airlift a casualty to hospital. GFS headquarters at Chek Lap Kok lost contact with it at 10.41.
An air, sea and land search and rescue operation was immediately begun.
The Civil Aviation Department coordinated the search, involving two GFS helicopters, several vessels from the Marine Police, Fire Services Department and Marine Department, as well as the Mountain Rescue Unit of the Civil Aid Service.
Firemen located the wreckage of the helicopter at about 300 metres near Fung Wong Path, Fung Wong Shan on Lantau Island just after 1.15 this morning.
The crew members were found trapped inside the wreck shortly before 3am. They were rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital where they were certified dead on arrival at around 4am.
Low visibility made rescue operation difficult
Commenting on the rescue operation, Fire Service Department Rescue Commander Yip Ming said it was difficult owing to darkness, steep slopes and fog.
The department mobilised 19 fire engines and three fire boats in the operation. About 20 Civil Aid Service members also joined the rescue.
Deputy Director of Civil Aviation Norman Lo said the task force will obtain information on the weather, flight controls, accident site and the helicopter.
Black box secrets to be revealed in UK
He also revealed that the helicopter's blackbox, located earlier, is being sent to the UK to learn what information it contains.
He noted that the investigation will take some time to complete. Eurocopter - the French manufacturer of the helicopter - will be notified of the accident, as will France's Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile and that country's Accident Investigation Bureau, which is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents.
Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong also expressed his regret over the accident in a statement, and thanked those involved in the rescue and follow-up investigation for their efforts.
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