Leicester City mourns ‘great man’ after Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others die in helicopter crash

Tributes have poured in for the billionaire Thai owner of Leicester City Football Club who died alongside four other people when his helicopter crashed just metres from the club’s stadium on Saturday night.

Police confirmed Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed along with two staff members, the pilot and a passenger when the aircraft fell from the sky and burst into flames outside the King Power Stadium at about 8.30pm. No one on the helicopter survived.

The four others were Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

Hundreds of tributes have been left outside the ground by mourners, with more messages flooding in through social media.

Leicester City confirmed 60-year-old Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, who bought the club for £39 million in 2010 and led it to a first Premier League title, had died in the crash after the Foxes drew 1-1 with West Ham.

"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," the club said in a statement.

"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."

  • Ex-England goalkeeper Peter Shilton tells ITV News of helicopter crash

On Monday, a wreath was laid by Mr Srivaddhanaprabha's family, along with hundreds of other tributes left by fans.

The owner's son, Aiyawatt, who also works for Leicester City, looked visibly emotional as he carried the wreath.

Kasabian singer Tom Meighan was among the mourners present outside the stadium.

Following training on Monday morning, Leicester City's first-team squad gathered outside the King Power Stadium to pay their respects.

Players such as Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel could be seen comforting Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.

  • Who were the victims?

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died alongside pilot Eric Swaffer, his partner Izabela Roza and staff members Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare.

Founder of duty-free consortium King Power International, Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, 61, bought Leicester City in 2010 for £39 million in 2010 and guided it to an unlikely title triumph six years later.

The Duke of Cambridge was among those to lead tribute to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha.

Prince William, who is president of the FA, said: "I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years.

The helicopter which took Mr Srivaddhanaprabha to and from matches. Credit: PA

"He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of important charitable causes.

"He made such a big contribution to football, not least through Leicester City's magical 2016 season that captured the imagination of the world.

Several players paid tribute on social media to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, who became chairman of the club in 2011 and is known for arriving and leaving the stadium in his helicopter at home games.

A growing number of tributes have been left outside the King Power stadium.

Pilot Eric Swaffer, 43, was an experienced flyer who had been in charge of several types of aircraft previously.

Friends described Mr Swaffer as "generous and kind" and somebody who loved travelling the world while working alongside his girlfriend.

Illusionist and magician Uri Geller was one of those who Mr Swaffer had flown around the world.

Geller told ITV News that he had become "very close" with the pilot and his partner Izabela Lechowicz.

Geller told ITV News: "He was an incredibly careful, meticulous, devoted pilot with many, many flight hours under his belt.

"He was extremely down to earth, a nice, nice person - they visited me here in Israel just a few months ago.

"There is no doubt in my mind that, knowing Eric so well, he managed to save the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of people by steering the doomed craft into the parking lot."

Ms Lechowicz, was selected by her country's London embassy as one of 18 exceptional Polish women who inspired the community in the UK for being a pilot.

Izabela Lechowicz was described as a 'wonderful pilot' from the Polish embassy. Credit: PA

The Polish embassy described Ms Lechowicz as "a wonderful pilot" who "created a positive image of Poland in the UK".

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha's staff members Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare were also travelling in the helicopter.

Ms Suknamai was the runner up for Thailand's Miss Universe in 2005, according to her social media pages.

Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel comfort Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha. Credit: PA

Tuesday's match against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the development squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup have been postponed.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is leading the investigation into how the Agusta Westland AW169 helicopter crashed in what is believed to be the first accident involving such an aircraft.

A view from outside the King Power Stadium. Credit: PA

Superintendent Steve Potter said it was likely to take several days to complete the investigation around the crash site.

He added: “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."