The five victims of the Leicester helicopter crash have been named including billionaire owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, his assistant, a Thai beauty queen, the co-pilot and hero pilot Eric Swaffer who steered the stricken aircraft away from football fans on the ground.
In a statement issued by the club it confirmed none of the five on board survived when the aircraft fell from the sky and burst into flames at the south east end of the King Power Stadium at about 8.30pm.
The 60-year-old, who bought the club for £39 million in 2010 and led it to a first Premier League title in 2015-16 was described as a ‘great man’ of ‘kindness’ and ‘generosity’.
Alongside the beloved chairman, beauty queen Nursara Suknamai, his assistant Kaveporn Punpare and also pilot Eric Swaffer, who previously flew members of the Royal Family, and his girlfriend and co-pilot Izabela Roza Lechowicz all perished.
Pilot Eric Swaffer is believed to have saved the lives of hundreds of fans by steering the doomed aircraft away from vulnerable fans on the ground. It avoided busy roads and the last of the 31,000 fans who were still in the area along with dozens of police officers.
Experts suspect the tail rotor failed, sending the £6million AgustaWestland into a ‘dead man’s curve’ that no pilot could handle.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha‘s helicopter was often flown by Mr Swaffer, 53, who has posted pictures of the craft on social media.
He and his partner Izabela Lechowicz, 46 were from Camberley in Surrey and were part of the owner’s family’s close team. Mr Swaffer was a close friend of Israeli illusionist Uri Geller, 71, who had known the pilot for years.
Glamorous ex-beauty queen Nursara Suknamai also died at the scene.
She came second in Miss Universe Thailand 2005 and an added Miss Photogenic accolade in the Bangkok-based contest the same year.
Ms Suknami was also a fitness fanatic, often sharing workout and yoga videos to Instagram. She had also shared images of herself at Leicester games with the hashtag #foxes #lcfc and #fearless.
Her last post on social media was four days ago, when she uploaded a smiling selfie with the caption ‘Wednesday #wednesday #redlipstick’.
After news of her death broke with the club statement this evening, her social media pages were flooded with tributes.
One person wrote: ‘May you rest in peace you beautiful angel.’
Premier league matches took place across the country as fans fell silent in solidarity with Leicester, whose fans gathered to lay flowers at the King Power Stadium.
Supporters branded it Leicester’s ‘darkest day’, paying tribute to the much-loved owner who helped them to a miracle Premier League victory in 2016.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter was heading for Luton Airport where he was due to catch a flight to Thailand, Leicester sources said today.
But witnesses say they heard the ‘engine stop’ in mid-air just after take-off before the aircraft plummeted to the ground in the club’s car park at around 8.30pm.
Statement from Leicester City Football Club
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.