Leicester City chairman’s death in accident sparks outpouring of grief

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Madrid, Oct 29 (IANS) Sports personalities, politicians and members of the United Kingdom’s royal family paid tribute on Monday to the Thai billionaire owner of English Leicester City who died alongside four others when his helicopter crashed just outside the club’s King Power stadium shortly after take off.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the 61-year-old owner of King Power International Group, a leading travel retail company in Thailand, staff members Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, were all killed in the tragic accident on Saturday after Leicester’s 1-1 draw to West Ham, reports Efe.

“My thoughts are with those family, friends and supporters connected to the tragic crash outside Leicester City’s stadium on Saturday night. The outpouring of grief is a testament to how many people’s lives were touched by those on board,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement shared on Twitter.

The private helicopter spiralled out of control just after taking off from the centre of the pitch at the King Power Stadium and was engulfed in flames as it smashed into the ground.

In a statement released by Kensington Palace, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, said he was lucky to have known Srivaddhanaprabha for several years.

“He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of charitable causes,” the second-in-line to the British throne said. “He will be missed by all fans of the sport and everyone lucky enough to have known him,” he added.

The front pages of several UK newspapers hailed the actions of experienced helicopter pilot Swaffer, who according to witness accounts steered the doomed chopper toward an empty space in the parking lot to avoid crowds of fans making their way home after the game.

Leicester-born English soccer legend Gary Lineker, who began his career at his local team, said he was deeply saddened by the news of Srivaddhanaprabha’s death.

“A quiet, unassuming man who will always be remembered with great fondness and respect. He also helped to bring the most magical, miraculous title win in the history of football,” the soccer pundit wrote on social media.

The Thai business magnate bought Leicester in 2010, six years before the club romped to Premier League victory in a season widely regarded as a fairytale story in the world of soccer.

There was an outpouring of grief from the club’s players, many of whom played a key role in the 2015/16 championship.

Leicester captain Wes Morgan described Srivaddhanaprabha has a man he respected and who was adored by the club while goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, son of Denmark legend Peter Schmeichel, said the late chairman made his dreams come true.

–IANS

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