Award-winning Taiwan documentary maker dies in helicopter crash

Chi Po-lin, 52, earned widespread praise for his aerial documentary "Beyond Beauty"

The scene of the helicopter crash (photo courtesy of Hualien Fire Department).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Award-winning “Beyond Beauty – Taiwan from Above” (看見台灣) documentary maker Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) was one of three people who died when their helicopter crashed in Hualien County, reports said Saturday.

The movie was a huge commercial success, grossing more than NT$220 million (US$7.3 million) which also helped focus public attention on issues of environmental pollution and climate change affecting Taiwan. The 90-minute film won the prize for Best Documentary at the 2013 Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan’s equivalent of the Oscars. His last public appearance was when he announced plans for a sequel last Thursday.

At 11:56 a.m. Saturday, a helicopter was reported to have crashed in the mountains near the Hualien coastal town of Fengbin. Later reports said the craft had been on a filming mission and carried three people who all died in the crash.

Only about two hours later did reports confirm that one of those aboard had been Chi, 52. He was taking footage of a local Rainbow Bridge for the sequel to “Beyond Beauty,” reports said.

According to the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the company which owned the helicopter, Emerald Pacific Airlines (凌天航空) of Taichung, suffered five accidents in the 23 years of its existence with eight deaths as a result, reports said. The Bell 206 helicopter which crashed Saturday was about 15 years old and had flown 4,620 hours, according to a company spokesman.

The two other men who died in the accident were named as Chang Chih-kuang (張志光), a pilot with 5,529 hours of flying on his record who had worked with Chi before, and Chen Kuan-chi (陳冠齊), an assistant.

A friend of the documentary maker died as the pilot in another Emerald Pacific crash almost two years ago, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported. Chi allegedly wanted to dedicate his new movie to the crashed pilot.

The filmmaker started his career with the Ministry of Transportation, where he made aerial pictures of major infrastructure projects.