Leicester City have postponed their Carabao Cup clash with Southampton as the club reels from the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash at the club’s ground on Saturday.
Players, staff and fans have been left devastated by the tragedy. A book of condolences will be opened at the King Power stadium on Tuesday, where supporters have been leaving flowers, shirts, scarves and other messages of support and sorrow. Members of Srivaddhanaprabha’s family visited the ground on Monday.
The club released a statement that said: “It is with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart that we confirm our Chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was among those to have tragically lost their lives on Saturday evening when a helicopter carrying him and four other people crashed outside King Power Stadium. None of the five people on-board survived.
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“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.
“In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. 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. Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the Club that is now his legacy.”
The other victims have been named as Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare - members of Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff - pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
The helicopter came down in a car park near the ground, shortly after it took off from the pitch. Eyewitnesses said the engines appeared to cut out shortly before it came down and exploded in a fireball.
Tributes to the Leicester owner, who masterminded the club’s astonishing title triumph in 2016, have been pouring in from players, pundits, fans and the wider football community.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who witnessed the crash, said: “I am so totally devastated and heartbroken. I just cannot believe what I saw last night. It just doesn't seem real.”
“A helicopter rising from the pitch to sweep a billionaire owner away from a game was a symbol of how far Leicester City have come,” writes Paul Hayward in The Daily Telegraph. “That aircraft ditching and exploding in flames in an adjacent car park affirmed how fragile life and the good times are.
"Witnesses to a miracle, in May 2016, thousands came in October 2018 to observe the brutal opposite of civic joy.”
Henry Winter of The Times said “a river of grief” flowed towards the stadium after the tragedy.
“Vichai gave Leicester their greatest moment, the against-all-odds 2015-16 Premier League title triumph. And now the club have been engulfed in tragedy.
“Vichai was respected because he made dreams come true, because he clearly loved football, and travelled thousands of miles from Bangkok to watch his team play when he could easily have tuned in from the comfort of his own home.”
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