Leicester City’s charismatic Thai boss was feared dead Sunday after a helicopter belonging to the billionaire crashed and burst into flames in the football stadium car park moments after taking off from the club’s pitch.
Neither the police nor the club would confirm or deny whether Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a regular at matches who flies to and from home games by helicopter, was on board the aircraft when it appeared to develop a mechanical problem in its rear propeller.
The BBC, Sky News and several British papers quoted sources saying the 60-year-old and a group of others boarded the blue helicopter from the middle of the pitch once the stadium emptied after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.
Leicester City said only that it was assisting police with a “major incident” and Vichai’s King Power duty-free shopping empire was not commenting.
Local police thanked fans for their “patience” in a tweet issued nearly 18 hours after the crash.
“We are working with a number of other agencies to get an update out to the public and press,” the Leicestershire police force said in a tweet.
Images showed orange balls of flame engulfing the wreckage in the car park at King Power Stadium.
“Literally the engine stopped and I turned around, and it made a bit of a whirring noise. It turned silent, blades started spinning and then there was a big bang,” freelance photographer Ryan Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Prayers and words of warm praise poured in from across Britain and beyond for the Thai boss who many credit with spurring Leicester’s against-all-odds Premier League title victory in 2016.
A steady stream of grieving fans laid down football scarves and shirts outside the home fans’ entrance as aviation experts picked through the helicopter’s charred remains.
Among the tributes was an image of Ganesh, a Hindu god also seen in Thai Buddhist temples.
A minute of silence was observed before the whistle of Sunday’s two early Premier League matches.
“He’s put Leicester on the map. He’s made us big,” club supporter Cathy Dann, 55,told AFP. -AFP