October 29, 2018 – THE owner of Leicester City was killed alongside four others when his helicopter burst into flames shortly after taking off from the grounds.
Boss Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 61, died in the fireball outside the King Power Stadium along with a hero pilot, his co-pilot girlfriend, a beauty queen and another worker.
In a statement, Leicester City Football Club confirmed that none of the five people on-board the helicopter had survived the crash on Saturday night.
Cops said pilots Eric Swaffer, 53, and Izabela Roza Lechowicz, 46, were among those killed.
The pilot of the doomed helicopter is understood to have saved hundreds of lives by steering it away from fans and a hotel in a “dead man’s curve”.
Cameraman Dan Cox said: “The pilot was heroic. That helicopter could have crashed into the stadium, into the media compound where TV crews were packing up, or into the car park where I was.
“He crashed in part of the grounds or car park where there wasn’t anyone. It could have been so much worse if the pilot hadn’t done that.”
Cops say Nusara Suknamai, a pal of billionaire Vichai and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe 2005, died in the crash.
Kaveporn Punpare has been confirmed as the fifth victim of the crash.
The football club described Srivaddhanaprabha who bought the club for £39million and led it to a first Premier League title in 2015-16 as a “great man”.
It said an online book of condolence will be put on its website for supporters unable to visit the stadium to leave tributes.
Tuesday’s first team fixture against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the development squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup has been postponed.
Zabela Lechowicz, Eric Swaffer
The force said formal identification had not been completed and no one else was believed to be injured.
A National Grid building and Holiday Inn packed with Saturday night revelers were also near where the Agusta Westland AW-169 craft came down.
The helicopter has been piloted in the past by Swaffer and his partner Lechowicz.
His Instagram shows the aircraft on the pitch in February. Eric is understood to have flown royals and the Dalai Lama in over 20 years’ experience.
He once winched an injured person to safety in 70mph winds off the Shetlands and flew the Virgin Radio traffic chopper.
Izabela came to the UK in 1997 after finishing a degree in Poland.
A neighbor of the couple in Camberley, Surrey, said Eric had texted them that evening but messages stopped around the time of the crash.
Sources say Nusara Suknamai, a pal of billionaire Vichai and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe 2005, died in the crash.
Tributes were paid to her on social media last night.
The fifth victim was the owner’s right-hand man Punpare, nicknamed Golf.
Vichai’s wife and four children are said to have been in Bangkok.
The helicopter took off from the halfway line just over an hour after the full-time whistle at 7.25pm on Saturday.
It was due to head to Luton Airport so Vichai could fly home to Thailand.
But witnesses said it was clear there was a problem with the tail rotor.
Mr Cox, who works for Sky, added: “I heard the helicopter come out of the stadium.
“I looked up and it was just spinning in the same position, out of control. I’d never seen anything like it.
“Then, and I don’t know how, the pilot seemed to somehow slow down the spinning rotation and it just drifted off into that corner part of the car park. Two police officers in front of me also tried to help. They are heroes too.”
Aviation expert Philip Amadeus owns the Surrey firm that operated two helicopters on behalf of the club. Mr Amadeus sometimes piloted the craft and was regularly pictured with it.