Premier League club Leicester City have confirmed that Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was among five people who died when a helicopter crashed next to the stadium on Sunday night.
The 60-year-old retail entrepreneur’s helicopter burst into flames shortly after taking off from the soccer field at the team’s King Power Stadium which is named after his duty-free chain.
The club did not name the other four victims, but it is understood they are one of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s two daughters, two pilots and a fifth person whose identity was not immediately known.
The chopper plunged to the ground in the club’s car park, where police cars and emergency services rushed towards the crumpled craft as it exploded in a ball of flame.
Leicestershire Police earlier refused to confirm Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s death, stating only that all the helicopter’s passengers were believed to have died.
An ambulance was seen leaving the crash site without flashing lights – an ominous sign and indication of casualties, according to observers at the scene.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha routinely leaves the stadium in his helicopter, which lands in the centre circle on the pitch, after every Leicester home game.
Witnesses reported watching the helicopter take off as normal but then hover over the south-east corner of the ground as the engine appeared to misfire.
It then went into an apparently uncontrolled spiral spluttering and vanished from site behind the stadium’s grandstands.
A split second later there was the sound of a crash followed by a pillar of flame.
“We are dealing with an incident in the vicinity of the King Power Stadium. Emergency services are aware and dealing,” Leicestershire Police tweeted.
The Leicester helicopter just as it took off, minutes before the crash; footage as broadcast on BT Sport. Still no confirmation who was aboard.pic.twitter.com/GHlruA1qJt
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) October 27, 2018
Witnesses told Sky Sports News the helicopter took off from the pitch but lost control within a few seconds and crashed.
“I hope they’re OK. Doesn’t seem like they have had much of a chance. Just burst into flames,” one witness told Sky News.
Leicester players Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire both tweeted praying hands emojis.
West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta, who played in the game, tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved in the helicopter accident at Leicester City.”
– with AAP