Broken-hearted Leicester have paid tribute to “a great man” following the death of billionaire owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash close to the King Power Stadium.
The 60-year-old Thai businessman and four other people on board were killed when the aircraft fell from the sky and burst into flames at the south east end of the stadium shortly after Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with West Ham.
Late on Sunday night, the Foxes confirmed that Srivaddhanaprabha, who bought the club for £39million in 2010 and guided it to an unlikely title triumph six years later, had died in the tragedy.
A statement said: “It is with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart that we confirm our chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was among those to have tragically lost their lives on Saturday evening when a helicopter carrying him and four other people crashed outside King Power Stadium. None of the five people on-board survived.
“The primary thoughts of everyone at the club are with the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the families of all those on-board at this time of unspeakable loss.
“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.
“Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the Club that is now his legacy.
“A book of condolence, which will be shared with the Srivaddhanaprabha family, will be opened at King Power Stadium from 8am on Tuesday 30 October for supporters wishing to pay their respects.”
Leicester are also to create an online book of condolence on their official website for supporters unable to visit the stadium to leave tributes.
Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash with Southampton and the development squad’s fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup have been postponed.
The club added: “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.”
Leicestershire Police said the other four people are believed to be two of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
The force said formal identification had not been completed and no one else was believed to be injured.
Superintendent Steve Potter said: “This is an incredibly tragic incident in which five people are understood have lost their lives.
“Emergency services were immediately on scene when the crash happened, working to put out the fire and gain access to the helicopter in attempts to reach those inside. Despite those efforts, there were no survivors.
“The (Air Accident Investigation Branch) AAIB is now leading an investigation to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the crash and investigators will remain at the scene to complete their initial enquiries.
“It is likely to take several days to fully complete the necessary work and to safely deal with the scene of this tragic accident, during that time we ask that both the media and public resist speculating around the cause of the crash.
“Our thoughts today are with the families of those who have sadly died, with Leicester City Football Club, and with both football supporters and the wider local community who have all been impacted by the events of last night and the news that those on board the aircraft have not survived.”
The air accident watchdog has launched an investigation into why the aircraft, which witnesses said appeared to spiral out of control moments after take-off at about 8.30pm, crashed in a car park near the stadium.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was known for arriving and leaving the stadium in his helicopter at home games.
The aircraft’s manufacturers said it was the first accident involving one of its Agusta Westland AW169 helicopters.
AAIB specialists have launched a probe into what caused the crash.
Mourners began laying tributes at the stadium on Sunday morning and hundreds of bouquets, scarves and football shirts have since been left outside the ground by members of the public alongside a large image of the Hindu god Ganesh.
Srivaddhanaprabha’s influence in Leicester extended beyond his football club, and his charity work included a £2million donation to a new children’s hospital.
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