LONDON – Leicester City have confirmed that club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was among five people who died in a helicopter crash outside its stadium on Saturday.
In a statement late Sunday, the club praised the Thai billionaire as 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.”
Leicestershire police said the other victims had not yet been formally identified but were believed to be two members of Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
“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,” the club said.
Srivaddhanaprabha took over the club in 2010 and was a much-respected and popular figure locally, also because of his charitable efforts.
His status was assured in May 2016 when Leicester won the Premier League, in one of the biggest surprises in sporting history, having been 5,000-1 outsiders when the season began.
The helicopter took off from the Leicester pitch around an hour after his team’s 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday evening.
Moments later, it crashed just outside the ground.
Fans and well-wishers had been gathering at Leicester’s King Power ground from early Sunday, laying flowers and scarves and sharing stories.
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy offered his own tribute on Instagram.
“Struggling to find the right words … but to me you are legend, an incredible man who had the biggest heart, the soul of Leicester City Football Club,” he said.
“Thank you for everything you did for me, my family and our club. I will truly miss you … may you rest in peace.”
Leicester defender Harry Maguire echoed his sentiments.
“Words can’t describe how I feel,” he said on Twitter. “A truly great, kind, loving man who will be missed so much by everyone.
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said he was “devastated and heartbroken”.
“It’s difficult to put into words how much you have meant to this football club,” he wrote on Instagram.
“We all know about the investment in the football club you and your family have made.
“But this is about so much more. You cared so deeply for not just the club but for the entire community. Your endless contributions to Leicester’s hospitals and charities will never be forgotten.”
Former Leicester players, including former England captain Gary Lineker, had expressed their shock before Sunday’s confirmation of his death.
“Thoughts are with everyone at Leicester City,” he wrote on Twitter late Saturday. “A terrible tragedy. Heartbreaking.”
Former Leicester and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton also offered his tribute.
“RIP to the greatest ever Owner of LCFC,” he said on Twitter. It was a privilege to have met him and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in last night’s tragedy.”
Leicester’s League Cup match against Southampton, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed, the club said. -DPA