Leicester City’s Thai billionaire boss was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed and burst into flames in the Premier League side’s stadium car park moments after taking off from the pitch, the club said on Sunday.
A stream of fans already fearing the worst had laid out flowers, football scarves and Buddhist prayers outside the club’s King Power stadium after Saturday’s accident in tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha — the man they credit for an against-all-odds Premier League victory in 2016.
A book of condolence will be opened at the stadium from Tuesday and the team has postponed its upcoming League Cup fixture against Southampton.
Police named the four other victims as Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, two members of Vichai’s staff, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
Vichai, sixty, the owner of Thailand’s King Power duty-free empire, was a regular at matches who used to fly to and from home games.
The blue chopper took off from the middle of the pitch once the stadium had emptied after Saturday’s one, one draw with West Ham.
Eyewitnesses said the helicopter appeared to develop a mechanical problem in its rear propeller shortly after takeoff.
Images showed orange balls of flame engulfing the wreckage in the car park of the stadium where just two years ago Leicester celebrated the most unlikely of Premier League title triumphs.
Prayers and tributes poured in from the footballing world and beyond for the jovial man many credit with bringing glory to the central English city with the miracle-making club.
Among the tributes was an image of Ganesh — a Hindu god also seen in Thai Buddhist temples.
A minute’s silence was observed before the whistle of Sunday’s Premier League matches.
Football fans in Bangkok said Vichai had helped develop the sport in Thailand as well, bringing the Southeast Asian country greater recognition in the sporting world.
Chamat Uchukanokkul, thirty-nine, said Vichai was “an inspiration to Thais… He showed that we can do anything if we set our minds to do it”.
Vichai bought Leicester City in 2010 and moved to chairman the following February, pouring millions into the team and becoming a beloved figure in the club and the city — a feat rarely achieved by the Premier League’s foreign owners.