The image made from video shows a burning helicopter belonging to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a parking lot outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester on Saturday. (Pool photo via AP)
LONDON: A helicopter belonging to Leicester City football club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha crashed in the club’s car park on Saturday evening, according to British media, with photographs posted on Twitter showing a fireball. Mr Vichai and four others were on board, sources said. At 11pm in Thailand on Sunday, It was still unclear whether there were any survivors.
Earlier, media reported that a daughter of Mr VIchai was also on board, but it was later confirmed that she was not present on the doomed flight.
Leicester police tweeted that they were dealing with an incident near the club’s King Power Stadium and that emergency services were also at the scene.
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Leicester had played at home against West Ham United earlier on Saturday, drawing 1-1.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch is working alongside the emergency services and the club to “establish the exact circumstances of the collision,” Leicestershire Police said in a statement.
The billionaire, who also owns King Power, bought Leicester in 2010 and provided the funds that helped the team improbably win the Premier League at odds of 5,000-1 in 2016.
Leicester has not said if its owner was on the helicopter, but the BBC quoted a source close to the family as saying he was on the doomed flight. Another source close to the club said the helicopter was also carrying a daughter of Mr Vichai, two pilots and a fifth person whose identity was not immediately known, but it was later confirmed that Mr Vichai’s daughter was not on board.
There were no confirmed details, however, on whether anyone on board the helicopter survived, the source said.
In a scene regularly seen after matches, Mr Vichai’s aircraft arrived in the King Power Stadium after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham before taking off from the center circle more than an hour after full time.
According to eyewitnesses, the helicopter just cleared the top of the stadium before it started to spin. It then plummeted to the ground and burst into flames.
John Butcher, who was near the stadium at the time of the crash, told the BBC his nephew saw the helicopter spiral out of control apparently due to a faulty rear propeller.
“Within a second it dropped like a stone to the floor…Luckily it did spiral for a little while and everybody sort of ran, sort of scattered. As far as we are aware nobody around the car park was caught up in this problem.”
Photographer Ryan Brown reported hearing the engine stopping after the helicopter cleared the stadium.
“I turned round and it made a bit of a whirring noise, like a grinding noise,” Mr Brown told the BBC. “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.”
British broadcaster BT Sport was presenting its post-game show in the stadium when the helicopter took off.
“It suddenly got very serious,” BT presenter Jake Humphrey announced later on air. “The helicopter has crashed. It has crashed in the club carpark … we heard a commotion.”
This was just before the helicopter of #Leicester City FC owner took off https://twitter.com/ronymerg/status/1056299974319837184/video/1 …
BT Sport filming the #Leicester owner’s helicopter and joking just seconds before it crashed outside the stadium.
The local ambulance service said it received reports of a helicopter crash at 8.38pmlocal time and sent a doctor, two paramedics in ambulance cars, a crewed ambulance and its Hazardous Area Response Team.
“The first resource (arrived) within two minutes of the call,” the ambulance service said.
An indication of concerns within the Leicester squad came on social media.
The emoji of praying hands was tweeted by several players, including striker Jamie Vardy, whose goals helped the 134-year-old team win the English title for the first time in 2016.
The competition’s organisers tweeted: “Thoughts from all at the Premier League are with everyone affected by tonight’s incident.”
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