Czech billionaire Petr Kellner died in Saturday’s helicopter crash in Alaska, with the spokeswoman of PPF, Kellner’s company, confirming his death. Four other people died in the accident after the helicopter crashed on a glacier while carrying the group of skiers.
“While his working life was fully marked by incredible diligence and creativity, his private life belonged to his family and children. The funeral will therefore take place in a close family circle. We ask everyone, especially the media, to respect the privacy of Petr Kellner’s family at this difficult time,” said PPF investment group spokeswoman Jitka Tkadlecová about the tragic death of the 56-year-old businessman.
Reporting on the incident, The New York Times stated that the crew was about to go skiing off-piste, necessitating the use of a helicopter, which led to it crashing in the area of the Knik Glacier southeast of the town of Palmer.
Among the dead is, according to a police report, Kellner’s 50-year-old coach Benjamin Larochaix. Three other people were killed in the crash, a 52-year-old man from Colorado and two 30-year-olds from Alaska, one of whom was a pilot. The other two men were ski guides and instructors.
Authorities also mentioned an injured passenger who is in a serious but stable condition at Anchorage Hospital.
Rescue services said that the accident report came on Saturday around 10 p.m. local time when the participants did not return from the excursion. The wreckage of the Airbus AS350 B3 was then discovered in the area of the Knik Glacier. The circumstances of the accident will be investigated by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
“It is an area with very steep slopes, the terrain is covered with snow, about 1,700 meters above sea level,” Anchorage Daily News quoted Clint Johnson of the NTSB.
It is assumed that the group wanted to do heli-skiing in the area, i.e., skiing in which skiers disembark from a helicopter. Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which routinely provides similar excursions, expressed regret over the event on Sunday.
“It is overwhelming news for us and the families of the dead. This is the first time we have had to face such a tragedy in 17 years of operating these activities,” the resort wrote in a statement, adding that Kellner was their frequent guest and friend.
Several people have already sent their condolences.
“An unbelievable tragedy. I’m so sorry. Sincere condolences to the whole family of Petr Kellner,” wrote Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Twitter.
A spokesman for President Miloš Zeman said that the president held Kellner in high esteem for his business success and regrets his tragic death.
Kellner was the majority owner of the PPF Group, an investment group that operates in several industries on three continents. According to the company’s 2019 annual report, Kellner controlled 98.93 percent of PPF. For 15 years, Kellner has been ranked by Forbes magazine among the wealthiest people in the world, with an estimated 293 billion korunas (€11.2 billion) in assets.
PPF invests in a range of businesses from banking and financial services to telecommunications, engineering, biotechnology, insurance, real estate, and agriculture. In addition to working in the PPF Group, Kellner was known for several other activities. In 2002, he and his wife Renáta founded the Educa Foundation (since 2009 the Kellner Family Foundation), which supports the education of socially disadvantaged students.
Kellner was born on May 20, 1964. According to available information, he was married for the second time and had four children. The most famous of his children is Anna Kellnerová, a successful show jumping rider.
Title image: Petr Kellner (ppf.eu)