Leicester City owner was among five killed in helicopter crash
Club pays tribute to ‘man of kindness and generosity’ in statement on Twitter
The club confirmed in a statement on Sunday night that none of the five people on board had survived the crash.
Also on board were a pilot, two members of Vichai’s staff and and a passenger, Leicester police confirmed.
The club said on Twitter: “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.”
The father-of-four from Thailand and founder of duty-free giant King Power International, is a huge favourite with the club’s fans after he bought the unfancied side in 2010 and they went on to a capture a stunning 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 spiralled out of control and crashed shortly after taking off around an hour after the game.
The helicopter came down yards from the King Power Stadium’s grandstands in a club car park. Team manager Claude Puel confirmed he was not on the helicopter.
According to witnesses, the helicopter had barely cleared the top of the stadium before it started to spin. It then plummeted to the ground and burst into flames.
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.”
Hundreds of fans laid flowers, football shirts and scarves outside the stadium in tribute to Vichai on Sunday morning.
“He’s put so much money into the club. He has brought the club up from receivership, put the money in, built the team, won the Premiership,” 68-year-old fan Richard Mobbs told Reuters.
“The future is looking bright or at least it was looking bright.”
According to Forbes magazine, Vichai is the fifth-richest person in Thailand with an estimated net worth of €4.3 billion.
The self-made businessman’s duty-free company, founded in 1989, was granted an airport monopoly in 2006 under the government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It continued to prosper even after Thaksin’s ousting in a coup that year.
The family’s empire also includes Belgian football club, Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
Freelance photographer Ryan Brown was covering the game and saw the helicopter clear the stadium before it crashed.
“Literally the engine stopped and I turned around, and it made a bit of a whirring noise,” Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It turned silent, blades started spinning and then there was a big bang.”
The club said a book of condolences would be opened at the stadium from 8am on Tuesday and that the team’s match against Southampton would be postponed. – Reuters