Leicester, UK : Stunned Leicester City fans have gathered at the club’s ground after its owner’s helicopter crashed in a car park outside the stadium.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was in the helicopter when it came down at about 20:30 BST on Saturday, a source close to the family has told reporters. Four other people were reportedly on board with Mr Srivaddhanaprabha. Also on board were one of Vichai’s two daughters, two pilots and a fifth person whose identity was not immediately known,
One witness said he saw Leicester player Kasper Schmeichel run out of the stadium towards the scene of the crash.
Leicester had drawn 1-1 against West Ham United at the King Power Stadium, with the match finishing about one hour before the helicopter took off from the pitch.
Witnesses said they saw it just clear the stadium before it spiralled out of control, with some describing seeing a fireball as it crashed.
The club said it was assisting police and emergency services and would issue a more detailed statement in due course.
Under Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s ownership, Leicester City won the Premier League in 2016, having started the season as 5,000/1 outsiders.
Many people have been in tears as they approach stadium and they’ve all been consoling each other.
Richard Mobbs, from Burton Overy in Leicestershire, said he last saw the chairman in June when they discussed a player who was about to join the club.
“I spoke to Vichai a lot,” the 68-year-old said.
“It is such a shock. You just have to pay your respects.”
Mr Mobbs described Mr Srivaddhanaprabha as a “lovely, quiet, down to earth man”, and paid tribute to his family.
“They are all friendly,” he said.
“This season they bought me a season ticket.”
Anupat Maturongpituck, a student from Thailand studying at the University of Leicester, came to the King Power Stadium on Sunday to “pay my respects”, adding news of the crash has had a “great impact” in Thailand.
Freelance photographer Ryan Brown, who was covering the game, saw the helicopter clear the King Power Stadium before it crashed.
He told BBC Radio Leicester: “The engine stopped and I turned round and it made a bit of a whirring noise, like a grinding noise.
“The helicopter just went silent, I turned round and it was just spinning, out of control. And then there was a big bang and then [a] big fireball.”
A Leicester season ticker holder, who did not wish to be named, said he saw goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel run out from the stadium followed by “loads of security guards and stewards”.
“I was stood outside the ground but it crashed on the other side,” he said.
Another witness said it appeared “the tail propeller wasn’t working, putting it into a spin”.
Andrew Brodie, assistant chief fire officer at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said the crash was “clearly serious and tragic”.
He tweeted early on Sunday that he had just left “multiagency strategic meetings” at Leicestershire Police’s HQ, and asked for people not to speculate on the causes or people involved.
“Think of families, friends, responders, and @LCFC and their fans,” he said.
Leicestershire Police said officers were working alongside the other emergency services, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and Leicester City FC to establish the circumstances of the collision.
Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said he was “deeply concerned” by the crash, and paid tribute to emergency services staff for their “professional response”.
Labour MP Jon Ashworth, who represents Leicester South, said he had been in touch with emergency services and thanked them for responding so quickly.
Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby tweeted that his thoughts and prayers were “with all – particularly owners who’ve done so much for club and our city”.
Mark Kent, the former British ambassador to Thailand, said he was “shocked” to hear of the crash, adding that he had celebrated Leicester’s 2016 title win with the club’s chairman.
A match between Leicester City Women and Manchester United Women that was set to take place on Sunday has been postponed.
Former Leicester City and England striker Gary Lineker signed off on Match of the Day by saying it had been a “dreadful day”
Vichai, a father of four and the founder of duty-free giant King Power International, 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 Premier League title in 2016.
In Thailand, officials at King Power said they could not yet comment on the crash or say whether Vichai had been aboard when it spiraled out of control and crashed around an hour after the game. The club has not commented on that publicly.