The Premier league underwent a tragedy on Saturday as a fatal helicopter crash claimed the life of Leicester City’s owner, VIchai Srivaddhanaprabha, as well as four others.
The helicopter took off from the pitch around 30 minutes after the end of Leicester’s 1-1 home draw with West Ham but came into trouble shortly after taking off. The pilot – heralded as a hero for his actions – managed to manoeuvre the spiralling helicopter away from the crowd of fans leaving the ground and towards an empty car park, avoiding further disaster.
When the story broke on Saturday, authorities were unsure as to who was on board during the crash. It was clarified on Sunday morning that the owner and four others lost their lives on board; Nursara Suknamai, Kavenporn Punpare, both member of Vichai’s staff, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz were all named.
The accident site is currently under investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). Cordons are in place around Leicester’s King Power stadium as inquiries continue to determine the actual cause of the incident. Leicester’s mid-week game against Southampton in the EFL cup has been postponed and it is unclear when Leicester players will return to Premier league action.
Vichai, 60, was a massively loved figure at Leicester, having bought the club for £39m, in 2010. It was under his reign that the club won their 2016 Premier League title for the first time in their history, defying 5,000-1 odds to lift the trophy.
Vichai was a self-made billionaire and father of four who was a respected figure involved in local charity work. He donated £2m to Leicester Children’s Hospital, a fact which endeared him to the people of Leicester, as well as all the players and staff at Leicester City who all payed tribute in the aftermath of the accident.
The helicopter at the King Power stadium was a usual sight. Vichai would regularly leave home matches via the Augusta AW169 helicopter and was due to take it to Luton airport on Saturday before boarding his private jet to Thailand.
Eyewitness reports indicated that the helicopter had barely cleared the stadium before spiralling out of control. A fireball consumed the helicopter on impact in the unused car park where emergency services rushed to the scene to tackle the fire and search the wreckage. None of the passengers or the pilot aboard were able to survive.