LONDON—Leicester City soccer club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was among five people who died on a helicopter which crashed on Saturday, the club said on Oct. 28.
“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,” a club statement said.
A helicopter belonging to Vichai crashed in a ball of flames in the club’s car park on Oct. 27 after a Premier League match, British media said.
According to eyewitnesses, the helicopter just cleared the top of the stadium before it started to spin and spiral out of control. It then plummeted to the ground just yards from the pitch and burst into flames around an hour after the game had ended.
A cameraman with Sky News who was at the stadium at the time of the incident said he watched as the helicopter crash outside the stadium, adding that the pilot guided the aircraft away from people on the ground, saving many lives.
Two members of Vichai’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, also died along with pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz, The Associated Press reported.
I’m here at @LCFC’s King Power stadium, where hundreds of the club’s supporters have already laid flowers following owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter crashing outside the ground last night following their game against West Ham. pic.twitter.com/2fwCsikiNL
— James Dawson (@TheJayToday) October 28, 2018
John Butcher, who was near the stadium at the time of the crash, told the BBC his nephew saw the helicopter spiral out of control apparently due to a faulty rear propeller.
“Within a second it dropped like a stone to the floor…Luckily it did spiral for a little while and everybody sort of ran, sort of scattered. As far as we are aware nobody around the car park was caught up in this problem.”
Vichai is a huge favorite with the fans after he bought the unfancied side from central England in 2010 and they went on to stun the soccer world by winning the league title in 2016.
According to Forbes magazine, Vichai is the fifth richest person in Thailand with an estimated net worth of $4.9 billion.
After pumping millions of pounds into the club, he helped steer them back into the top flight in 2014 before they stunned the sport by beating the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea to become champions of England.
The self-made businessman Vichai founded Thai duty-free giant King Power in 1989.
The duty-free business got a big boost in 2006 when it was granted an airport monopoly under the government of then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and it continued to prosper even after Thaksin’s ouster in a coup that year.
The family’s empire also includes Belgian football club, Oud-Heverlee Leuven.