A private helicopter carrying Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha crashed into a parking lot outside the club’s stadium and exploded Saturday night. The helicopter took off about one hour after Leicester’s 1-1 draw against West Ham and had just cleared the stadium before it lost control and crashed at 20:30 BST (5:30 EDT).
One witness 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.”
An unnamed season ticket holder told the BBC that goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel ran out from the stadium after the crash and was followed by “loads of security guards and stewards.” Reuters reports that four other people were on board the helicopter as well. The Guardian quoted a witness at the scene who said:
“It just came out of the stadium already spinning, then down to the ground. Just in a spiral. It hit the ground with a big bang then burst into flames. It’s over on the other side of the car park, I don’t think there were people there. I’m shaking.”
The helicopter was an Agusta Westland AW169, per the Guardian. It crashed into an area of the stadium parking lot that is used by the club’s staff, though it’s not clear whether it landed on anything or if any bystanders were injured. Dozens of flowers, shirts, and scarves have been left near the scene by supporters of various teams.
Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai businessman and founder of King Power Duty Free who bought the club in 2010, flies back to London on his helicopter after every game he attends. Jimmy Rice of Sky Sports called it “a ritual known to anyone who attends Leicester City’s home games.” A fan-favorite since his Premier League arrival, the 60-year-old pumped millions into improving the team and its stadium over the years and is credited for funding Leicester’s improbable title run of 2016 which had 5000/1 odds. He is also known for giving fans free hot dogs and beers on his birthday.
The club has not commented beyond this tweet:
Leicestershire police released this statement:
We will update this post with more info as it becomes available.
Update (6:17 p.m. ET): Leicester City released a statement confirming that Srivaddhanaprabha died in the helicopter crash.