Thailand’s fifth richest person and the owner of Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) and the King Power Group, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, has been confirmed as one of five people killed Saturday night (Oct 27) in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in England.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was reportedly leaving the stadium to return to his home in London aboard his private helicopter, an AgustaWestland AW169, after his team had played a 1-1 draw with West Ham United.
British police named the four other victims as Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, two of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, pilot Eric Swaffer, and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester’s vice-chairman and Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s son, was not at the game.
In a statement issued late on Sunday LCFC announced that Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed on Saturday (Oct 27) night.
“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”, the statement said.
A book of condolence will be opened at the King Power stadium from Tuesday and the team postponed its coming game against Southampton.
Eyewitness reports say the helicopter had only been airborne for several minutes and had only cleared the height of the stadium, before spiralling into the staff car park at the rear of the sports ground creating a huge fireball on impact.
Photographer Ryan Brown told BBC that the engine of the helicopter sounded as if it stopped once it reached the height of the stadium roofing.
“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”, he said.
Immediately following the crash LCFC security and ground staff are reported as attempting to prevent bystanders and media from videoing or photographing the crash, before emergency services eventually erected a perimeter.
LCFC club goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was seen at the crash site crying.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha bought LCFC in 2010 for about US$50 million and is credited with being the driving force behind it clawing its way out of the English Football League (EFL) third division to win its first ever Premier League title in 2016. In 2017 he extended his football interest with the purchase of the Belgian club OH Leuven which plays in the Belgian second division.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, whose last name was bestowed by former King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2012 and means “light of progressive glory”, opened his first duty-free shop in Bangkok in 1989. It has grown to become the dominate duty-free outlet operator in Thailand and is now worth about $5 billion.
Last month a Thai court dismissed a $327 million corruption case against the company.
The AgustaWestland AW169 is a twin-engine, 10-seat, helicopter developed and manufactured by the Leonardo’s Helicopter Division of Italy’s Finmeccanica group.
Emails and phone calls to King Power Group in Bangkok have not been responded to. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) did not respond to a request for comment.
Originally published as: King Power boss thought killed in fiery England helicopter crash (video)
This has been a breaking news story. Updates are now concluded for this story.
Feature video Guardian Football
- Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha: author of Leicester’s football fairytale (Journal du Cameroun)
- Leicester City owner’s helicopter crashes near stadium after match (The Guardian)
- Thai court dismisses corruption case against Leicester’s owner King Power (The Guardian)
- Leicester City Owner’s Helicopter Crashes After Match (Khaosod English)
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
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