Leicester City owner confirmed dead in helicopter crash | Nigeria Newspaper- Nigeria News| Naija News

29.10.18

Leicester City owner confirmed dead in helicopter crash

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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died along with pilot Eric Swaffer and his co-pilot partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz
Leicester City have confirmed that chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in the helicopter crash on Saturday night with four other passengers, in a tragedy which has stunned the football world.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s aircraft plummeted to the ground and erupted in flames an hour after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham, and the 61-year-old was on board with two personal assistants and two crew members.
Leicestershire Police believe the others who died in the helicopter crash were Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, members of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, as well as pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz, although formal identification has not yet taken place.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter was heading for Luton airport, before he was then scheduled to fly back to his native Thailand, but an apparent mechanical failure ended in a disaster which has left the Premier League club in mourning.
Witnesses have said the "engine stopped" in the air, before the Augusta Westland AW-169 plunged to the ground at around 8.45pm. It was claimed on Sunday night that the pilot averted an even larger crisis by directing the malfunctioning helicopter towards the south-east corner of the stadium and away from many supporters in the car parks leaving the game.
Pilot Eric Sawffer with the Dalai Lama
Pilot Eric Sawffer with the Dalai Lama
It took more than 20 minutes for the flames to be extinguished before emergency services were able to survey the wreckage. Sources at Leicester have said there were no other casualties on the ground when the helicopter crashed.
Leicester’s statement read: “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.”
Prince William, president of the Football Association, paid tribute to Srivaddhanaprabha.
He said: "My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and all the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City Football Club.
"I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years. 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.
"He will be missed by all fans of the sport and everyone lucky enough to have known him."

An 'aviation love story'

Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer pictured in the cockpit
Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer pictured in the cockpit
The pilot who was killed in the crash has been remembered as a "funny and vivacious" man who was travelling the world with his soulmate.
Mr Swaffer, who was at the controls of the aircraft when it crashed, died alongside his partner Ms Lechowicz.
Witnesses said he was a hero for guiding the spinning helicopter away from crowds on the ground.
Friend Lucie Morris-Marr described Mr Swaffer as a "veteran in the field" and said he would have done all he could to prevent lives being lost in the incident.
Izabela Roza Lechowicz also died in the crash
Izabela Roza Lechowicz also died in the crash
Speaking to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live, she said: "He was such a buoyant, vibrant, funny person, but when it came time to fly it was game time, he was deadly serious."
She added: "I'm so proud of him that it seems he did save other lives in that moment. He would have done absolutely everything for those on board and others. That was just his nature."
Mr Swaffer and Ms Lechowicz were both professional pilots and lived together in Camberley, Surrey.
Ms Morris-Marr described it as an "aviation love story", adding: "They were travelling the world, they were so happy. Not many people get to work and travel with their soulmate, travelling the world going to glamorous places.
"It's terribly, terribly sad. It will take a long time to get over."
Asked how she would remember Mr Swaffer, she said: "For his laugh. He was just so funny and vivacious, but absolutely so skilled about flying. He was an absolutely wonderful guy."
News on the death of Leicester City football  club owner and duty-free King Power International founder Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is displayed on Thai newspapers in Bangkok
News on the death of Leicester City football  club owner and duty-free King Power International founder Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is displayed on Thai newspapers in Bangkok Credit: Reuters
The Polish embassy described Ms Lechowicz as "a wonderful pilot".
A statement said: "It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Izabela Lechowicz in the Leicester helicopter crash. She was a wonderful pilot and a #Polka100 campaign finalist who created a positive image of Poland in the UK. Our deepest condolences to her family."
Leicester’s vice-chairman, Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha, who is the owner Vichai’s son, was not present at the game and flew over from Thailand to meet with officials on Sunday.
Many of Leicester’s players were scheduled to train on Sunday morning but the session was cancelled and the Carabao Cup tie against Southampton on Tuesday will be postponed. Leicester also called off their Women's Championship and reserve matches which were due to take place on Sunday.
One eyewitness has suggested the tragedy could have been far worse.
One said: “If it had hit the stadium or even landed near the entrance who knows what would have happened.
“The pilot probably saved hundreds of lives. It’s still a tragedy, but it could have been much, much worse.”
It was alleged that Jon Rudkin, the club's director of football, was supposed to be joining the party on the helicopter before a late change of plans.
There were also inaccurate reports that Claude Puel, Leicester's manager, was on board but he had only just finished his media duties when the helicopter took off.
General view as a helicopter lands in the stadium at the end of the match
Pictures were taken of the helicopter landing at the King Power Stadium after Leicester's draw with West Ham Credit: Reuters
Puel said: “It's a tragedy for the club. I think very strongly about the victims and their families.
“I wanted to reassure everyone who cares about me, I'm terribly sad but I'm fine.”
Sven Goran Eriksson, the former England manager, was the first appointment by the Srivaddhanaprabha family and said: “What he has done for Leicester is incredible. He made the club from second division up to first division winning and made the club a big Premier League club today, fantastic.
“He was at every game during my time there and took part and were at training and talked to the manager and the players. When I came to the club he said he wanted to make it a big Premier League club, there were no secrets about that.”
Martin George, a former Leicester chairman, was at Saturday evening’s game and said: "I’d just left the ground and got in my car, there was an awful queue so I could tell something wasn’t right. I got a call from a friend to say what had happened.
"We’ve had administrations, we’ve had relegations, we’ve had all sorts of things, but nothing like this.
"Vichai has been terrific for this club. He is a very good gentleman, a sportsman. Not just with football, but polo, and horse racing. You couldn’t ask for anybody better to be in charge of this club.
"He enjoyed the company of people who had like minds, talked quite happily to them. But of course he had an iron will as well, to have his success you’d have to.”
"I came today to talk to the directors and express my feelings. I’ve been upstairs to speak to them and had a walk round. This is the last thing you’d expect.”
Leicester are not expected to return to action until this Saturday’s game at Cardiff but other club events are in doubt.
The helicopter up in flames outside the King Power Stadium
The helicopter crashed just moments after leaving the King Power Stadium centre circle Credit: Rex Features
On Wednesday the first-team squad and former players are due to appear for the Christmas video. There was also a scheduled Q & A on Thursday with Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, Danny Ward and Hamza Choudhury, plus former defenders Steve Walsh and Gerry Taggart.

'He gave us those dreams'

Overnight, flowers had been laid at the north wall of the stadium along with a large image of the god Ganesh and a candle.
By mid morning there was a steady flow of Leicester fans laying bouquets as scarfs at the stadium.
Roger Clarke, 58, went down to the King Power Stadium to lay flowers at the growing display of tributes.
A season-ticket holder, he had been at the West Ham game and seen the helicopter land on the pitch, but left before the crash.
Flowers are laid outside the King Power Stadium on Sunday morning
Flowers are laid outside the King Power Stadium on Sunday morning
Mr Clarke, who lives in nearby Wigston and came with his friend and fellow season ticket-holder Keith Vose, 67, said: “We just brought some flowers down this morning as there’s nothing more you can do really. I just wrote [on the flower] ‘thinking of everybody involved’.
“It’s not just through football his (Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s) links with the city, they are through his charity work. That’s what football does, it brings people together.
“But that’s what he gave us (winning the Premier League) he gave us those dreams, that you can’t take away. You can’t take away what he’s done.”

'He is not just a chairman, he’s a massive friend of the staff. They are like family'

Two fans Andrew Wilson, 54, and Mahesh Daji, 56, were seen tearfully hugging after laying tributes at the stadium.
Mr Wilson, whose partner Debbie Collins, who works for Leicester FC, said he would have normally parked in the car park where the helicopter came down.
However he said is it was his partner’s birthday they opted for a car park further away to get into the city faster after the West Ham match.
“It had crashed between the two staff car parks, I don’t know if the pilot needs some recognition for that. He’s brought it down, it’s either fate or an act of bravery.
People react as they pause at floral tributes lined up outside Leicester City Football Club's King Power Stadium
Fans pause in front of floral tributes outside King Power Stadium on Sunday morning Credit: Getty Images
“Straight away staff were all ringing each other as they were concerned. The staff are just devastated, the fans are just devastated. Two years ago when Leicester won the league, he payed for all staff for couches, food vouchers, drink vouchers for staff to go to the last game of the season (at Chelsea), which was just fabulous. This guy is not just a chairman, he’s a massive friend of the staff. They are like family. It’s devastating, the staff are just absolutely devastated."
Mr Daji, who still has the piece of cake Mr Srivaddhanaprabha gave out to fans for his 60th birthday in his freezer as a momentous, added: “What happened on 2016, I had tears in my eyes it was like a dream. There are no words that can describe what he was, because I think he was not only the best chairman in this country but throughout the world.
“We are just hoping a miracle can happen like in 2016 and that they are okay, but we are just dreading the worst. It’s just devastation, the whole of Leicester it going to feel this. I’m in tears now.”

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