Leicester City’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has died in the helicopter crash outside the club’s stadium on Saturday October 27, as was confirmed on Sunday night by the club.
According to a report sighted by YEN.com.gh on Theguardian.com, he was one of five people killed on-board the helicopter when the accident occurred around an hour after the club’s draw at home to West Ham United.
The Thai owner’s helicopter crashed near a car park by the south-east corner of the stadium shortly after taking off from the pitch at around 8:20 PM.
“It is with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart that we confirm our chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was among those to have tragically lost their lives on Saturday evening when a helicopter carrying him and four other people crashed outside King Power Stadium. None of the five people on-board survived,” excerpts of the club statement read.
“The primary thoughts of everyone at the club are with the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the families of all those on-board at this time of unspeakable loss. In Khun Vichai the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led. Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the club that is now his legacy,” the statement continued.
Leicestershire police have named the other four passengers as Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, both members of Vichai’s staff, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is leading the investigation into the accident and a cordon remains in place at the scene while inquiries continue.
Vichai, 60, was a hugely popular figure at Leicester, having bought the club for £39m in 2010. With his backing the club won the Premier League in 2016 for the first time in its history, defying the odds.
The self-made billionaire and father of four was also respected locally for his charity work, having donated £2m to Leicester Children’s Hospital.
His surname, meaning “light of progressive glory” in Thai, had been bestowed on him by King Bhumibol, the former monarch of Thailand, in recognition of his corporate and social responsibility programmes.
Vichai regularly left home matches in his Augusta AW169 helicopter and on Saturday he was due to travel in it to Luton Airport prior to taking his private jet to Thailand.
Eyewitness reports indicated that the helicopter only just cleared the roof of the stands, stayed in the air briefly then spiraled down to earth after reportedly developing a fault with its tail rotor.
The aircraft crashed and erupted into flames after impact where it lay on land owned by the club, near a car park used by Leicester’s staff, which was empty at the time.
Emergency services rushed to the scene to tackle the fire and search the wreckage, with the area eventually cordoned off by Leicestershire police.
Witnesses praised Swaffer, who was at the controls when the helicopter crashed, as a hero for guiding it away from crowds on the ground.
Lechowicz was also a professional pilot, and she and Swaffer lived together in Camberley, Surrey. She had moved to the UK from Poland in 1997 and was recently selected for her profession by her country’s embassy in London as one of 18 inspirational Polish women.
The Leicester City statement said a book of condolence, to be shared with the Srivaddhanaprabha family, would be opened from 8 AM on Tuesday, October 30 for supporters wishing to pay their respects.
The club confirmed that both Tuesday’s fixture against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the development squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup have been postponed.
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