The worst fears were realised early Monday morning when Leicestershire police confirmed Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with other four people on board, had been killed when his helicopter crashed outside the club’s stadium on Saturday night.
Fondly known as Vichai, the Thai billionaire bought the Midlands club for a reported £39m in 2010, then helped it earn promotion to the top flight league in 2014. Two years later, they scripted one of the biggest underdog stories by lifting the Premier League title after beating odds of 5000-1.
“This is an incredibly tragic incident in which five people are understood have lost their lives. Emergency services were immediately on scene when the crash happened, working to put out the fire and gain access to the helicopter in attempts to reach those inside. Despite those efforts, there were no survivors," said Superintendent Steve Potter.
Later, the Foxes released a statement:
"“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.
“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.
“A book of condolence, which will be shared with the Srivaddhanaprabha family, will be opened at King Power Stadium from 8am on Tuesday 30 October for supporters wishing to pay their respects.
“Supporters unable to visit King Power Stadium that wish to leave a message can do so through an online book of condolence, which will be made available via lcfc.com in due course.
“Both Tuesday’s First Team fixture against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the Development Squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup have been postponed.
“Everyone at the Club has been truly touched by the remarkable response of the football family, whose thoughtful messages of support and solidarity have been deeply appreciated at this difficult time.”
The unfortunate accident happened around an hour after Leicester's 1-1 draw at King Power Stadium with West Ham United in a Premier League game on Saturday. The Thai owner’s helicopter crashed near a car park outside the stadium shortly after taking off from the pitch.
According to reports, a bang was heard shortly after and the helicopter was seen spiralling out of control.
Who were the victims?
Besides the owner, two members of his staff – Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz died in the crash. Suknamai was a former Miss Thailand Universe competitor, while Lechowicz – also a pilot was originally from Poland.
Who was Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha?
The 61-year-old was the chairman of duty-free company King Power International Group. He also controlled a part of AirAsia. He was the fourth-richest man in Thailand. He was an ethnic Chinese, with four children. One of his sons, Apichet, is a Leicester vice-chairman.
He was one of the most beloved club owners in England, not only for helping Foxes win the title but also for his wider community service.
The sporting world paid tribute to the departed souls:
Struggling to find the right words....but to me you are legend, an incredible man who had the biggest heart, the soul of Leicester City Football Club. Thank you for everything you did for… https://t.co/FzTaXVejUg— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) October 28, 2018
Words can’t describe how I feel. A truly great, kind, loving man who will be missed so much by everyone.— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) October 28, 2018
I will never forget the Chairman’s support, not only during my time @LCFC but also during the World Cup ðÂÂÂÂÂÂ¢ RIP âÂÂÂ¤ #TheBoss pic.twitter.com/66aGjGGwX9
The Leicester helicopter pilot miraculously avoided landing into 100s of fans by somehow steering the chopper into a car park, as it spun wildly out of control. Imagine having the selfless presence of mind to do that, knowing you're about to die?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 28, 2018
RIP Eric Swaffer - a hero. pic.twitter.com/RafZbZUaFY
Everybody at Chelsea Football Club is deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the death of five people at Leicester City on Saturday, including the club’s chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 28, 2018
Our thoughts at this sad time are with all those affected. https://t.co/bHmIuHgXiS
Everyone at #MUFC is deeply saddened to learn that the Leicester City chairman and four fellow passengers have lost their lives following last night's tragic incident. Our deepest condolences are with their families, friends and those connected to the club.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 28, 2018
Paris Saint-Germain family is shocked and saddened by the tragic events that claimed the life of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and sends its sincere condolences to the families and friends of all the victims as well as the supporters of Leicester City.— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) October 28, 2018
RIP to the greatest ever Owner of @LCFC it was a privilege to have met him and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in last nights tragedy ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ— Peter Shilton (@Peter_Shilton) October 28, 2018
A stream of fans in thousands headed toward the stadium, bearing flowers, scarves and club jerseys, and laying their tributes at an impromptu shrine outside the stadium.
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