The Czech Republic’s richest man, billionaire investor Petr Kellner, was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash in Alaska, officials have confirmed.
The 56-year-old founder of investment group PPF was among four passengers on a heli-ski tour who died alongside their pilot on Saturday near Knik Glacier, northeast of Anchorage, Alaska State Troopers said.
“An unbelievable tragedy,” said Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who offered “sincere condolences” to Mr Kellner’s wife, Renata, and his four children.
“I’m terribly sorry about it,” Mr Babis said.
Mr Kellner, who had been married twice, avoided public attention but was known to be a keen skier. A picture of him snowboarding was published in one PPF annual report.
He made his start selling copy machines following the 1989 Velvet Revolution – and by his death was worth $US17.4 billion ($A22.7 billion), according to Forbes.
The billionaire owned a 98.93 per cent stake in the PPF Group, which expressed “deepest grief” at the death of its founder.
He was also a former co-owner of Czech soccer club Slavia Prague, which shared “great sadness” and offered “its deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Kellner”.
Mr Kellner had also financed a think tank set up by former president Vaclav Klaus, architect of the 1990s privatisation that allowed Mr Kellner’s business rise.
“His life story was an example of harnessed opportunity offered to young people by the economic transformation,” Mr Klaus said. “He unfolded his initial success from privatisation to an extent reaching far beyond our country’s borders.”
Mr Kellner died alongside another Czech Republic tourist, Benjamin Larochaix, 50, authorities.
They died alongside two guides – Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado, and Sean McMannany, 38, of Girdwood, Alaska – as well as their 33-year-old local pilot, Zachary Russel, authorities said.
A third, unidentified guest was also injured in the crash, which is still being investigated.
Mr Kellner’s funeral will be private for his family, his company said.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission