Leicester City owner confirmed dead after helicopter crash as club pays tribute to 'man of kindness and generosity'

Hundreds of supporters visited Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Sunday to lay a blanket of bouquets, football shirts and scarves on the concourse

Mark Critchley
Sunday 28 October 2018 18:53
Tributes pour in from around the world for Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Leicester City have confirmed the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people after his helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium on Saturday night.

Witnesses said the helicopter appeared to spiral out of control shortly after it set off from the King Power Stadium at around 8.30pm on Saturday, an hour after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United, before crashing outside the ground.

Leicestershire Police said the four others killed were two members of his staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

No one else was injured after the aircraft came down in car park, the force added.

A statement released by the club on Sunday night said "with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart" that their chairman was among those killed.

It said the 60-year-old, who bought the club for £39m in 2010 and led it to a first Premier League title in 2015-16 was a "great man".

“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," it said.

“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."

The club said an online book of condolence will be put on its website for supporters unable to visit the stadium to leave tributes.

Flowers and scarves were left outside the ground by fans (Reuters)

It said Tuesday's first team fixture against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the development squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup had been postponed.

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai businessman who founded the King Power duty-free retailer, regularly journeyed to and from the club’s stadium by helicopter on match days.

Leicestershire Police said the Air Accidents Investigation Branch-led investigation was likely to last several days.

Leicester City owners' helicopter burns near stadium following crash

“Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service all responded to the incident last night and enquiries continue at the scene today [Sunday], led by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch. These enquiries are expected to continue over the coming days.

Thousands of Leicester supporters visited the King Power on Sunday to lay flowers and shirts with messages of thanks to the Srivaddhanaprabha family, who oversaw the club’s historic 2016 Premier League title win.

Ian Dunk, a Leicester fan of 40 years, was one of the many to pay respect. “There are so many owners at football clubs who just seem to be in it for the money,” he told The Independent.

“These were genuine people that care and put so much into Leicester and the community. He was just a deeply loved man and it’s just so sorry. This is the first time I’ve really felt we have owners who love us back.”

An image of the Hindu god Ganesha was left by a fan 

Theresa Shearer, another supporter, also feared the worst. She pointed to the Srivaddhanaprabhas’ contribution to the city as well as the club. The family, which owns the King Power duty-free retailer, donated £2m to build a children’s hospital in the city

“They’re not just a name behind something, there’s a face and personality,” she said. “It’s like they say, like a family member really. They’ve done so much, they’re just so kind and giving, they don’t want anything back. It’s just so sad. They’ve got time for everybody and everything Leicester.

“My son worked here for a while, a life-long Leicester fan, he’s now a football coach,” she added. “They give opportunities to people and help them with their dreams.”

Claude Puel, the Leicester manager, told Radio France: “It’s a tragedy for the club. I think very strongly about the victims and their families, and I wanted to reassure everyone who cares about me, I’m terribly sad but I’m fine.”

Thinking of the victims: Leicester City manager Claude Puel

Meanwhile, Leicester defender Filip Benkovic, on loan at Celtic, dedicated his side’s Scottish League Cup 3-0 semi-final win over Hearts to the families of those involved in the accident.

The 21-year-old Croatian, who joined Leicester from Dinamo Zagreb in August before moving north, said: “Last night was really bad for everyone. Nobody expected this would happen. So I want to give this win to the families.”

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