Leicester City owner's family visits stadium

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The wife and son of Leicester City’s owner have laid a wreath at the club’s stadium after he was killed alongside four others in a helicopter crash.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of staff, the pilot and a passenger, all died after the aircraft spiralled out of control outside the ground.

The club’s first team and youth squad were also at the King Power Stadium.

A team investigating Saturday night’s crash has recovered the aircraft’s digital flight data recorder.

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Leicestershire Police named the other people killed in the crash as Nursara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

The club chairman’s wife Aimon and son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha were joined at the ground by the president of the Thai FA, Somyot Poompanmoung and his wife, Potjaman Poompanmoung.

Manager Claude Puel joined his players, while vice-chairman Aiyawatt returned to see the tributes after arriving earlier in the morning when around 200 fans broke into spontaneous applause.

The family met players inside the stadium before laying their wreath.

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Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who started his career at Leicester City, was leaving the stadium on Saturday night with his wife when he said he saw the helicopter “spiralling down”.

“I was in shock and still am…we were so helpless,” he said.

“It’s something that will live with us forever. It’s one of the most horrendous things anybody can ever see.”

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Personalities from the sport and entertainment industries have been outside the stadium, including the lead singer of Leicester rock band Kasabian, Tom Meighan.

Meighan, who joined grieving supporters, said the death of club owner Mr Vichai was like “losing a member of your family”.

Club ambassador Alan Birchenall said Leicester City owed “everything” to Mr Vichai.

“There won’t be a dry eye among any of the staff today,” he added.

A book of condolence will be opened at King Power Stadium from Tuesday morning and the team’s match against Southampton in the EFL Cup, scheduled for that evening, has been postponed.

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Former Leicester City striker Gary Lineker said Mr Vichai gave “so much to the city” and changed the club from “run of the mill club to one known all over the world.”

The chairman was loved by fans for contributing to the team’s success as Premier League champions in 2016, for donating to local charities and often handing out beers, pies and scarves at games.

Many of the players have paid tribute to Mr Vichai on social media, including club captain Wes Morgan.

He tweeted: “Absolutely heartbroken and devastated regarding the news of our chairman. A man that was loved and adored by everyone here at lcfc.”

In a statement, Leicester City said the club’s thoughts were with “the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the families of all those on-board at this time of unspeakable loss”.

Earlier on Monday, the Duke of Cambridge led tributes to Mr Vichai, calling him a “dedicated family man”.

Prince William said Mr Vichai made a big contribution to football, adding Leicester City’s Premier League title-winning season “captured the imagination of the world”.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The outpouring of grief is a testament to how many people’s lives were touched by those on board.”

Jose Ragoobeer, whose wife and two sons died in an explosion at their home in February, has called Mr Vichai “a great person” after he gave his family use of the stadium for the funeral.

He also said Mr Vichai was very close to the club’s fans.

“He really gave all to Leicester City and Leicester as a whole,” he added.

Leicester City fans in Thailand have also been laying football shirts and flowers at King Power’s headquarters in Bangkok.

One of them told the BBC: “It’s a sad day for our city of Leicester, it’s a sad day for King Power, it’s a sad day for the families.

“I’m just shocked and saddened.”

Mr Swaffer had over 20 years’ flying experience as a private jet and helicopter pilot.

His friend Lucie Morris-Marr said he was a “veteran in the field” and would have done all he could to prevent lives being lost in the crash.

She described him as a “funny and vivacious” man who was in an “aviation love story” with Ms Lechowicz, who was also a pilot.

“Not many people get to work and travel with their soulmate, travelling the world going to glamorous places,” she said.

The couple lived together in Camberley, Surrey. Ms Lechowicz moved to the UK from Poland in 1997.

In a statement, the Polish embassy said: “She was a great pilot, winner of the #Polka100 contest. It contributed to the creation of a positive image of Poland in the UK.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said inspectors would be at the crash site until the end of week before transporting the wreckage to specialist facilities in Farnborough.

“In the meantime, we are still gathering evidence as part of our investigation,” a spokesman said.

Italian aerospace company Leonardo, which built the helicopter, said it was “first ever accident involving an AW169 helicopter” and it was “ready to support the AAIB”.

Witnesses have been urged to contact Leicestershire Police.

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BBC Sport – Football

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