By Peter Nicholls
LEICESTER, England (Reuters) – The weeping wife and son of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha laid a wreath outside the soccer club’s stadium on Monday as tributes poured in after the Thai tycoon’s death in a helicopter crash.
Vichai and four others were killed when his helicopter crashed next to the King Power stadium and then exploded after a Premier League match on Saturday.
His wife Aimon and son Khun joined hundreds of fans at the stadium where a mass of messages, floral tributes, shirts and scarves were laid in honor of the father of four and founder of duty-free King Power International who was a huge favorite with the club’s supporters.
“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,” a club statement said on Sunday.
The other victims two members of his staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz, Leicestershire Police said.
The aircraft came down in a car park near the King Power stadium shortly after 19:30 GMT, about an hour after the end of Leicester City’s game against West Ham United.
Britain’s Air Accident Investigations Branch said it had sent a team to examine the wreckage and had recovered the helicopter’s flight data recorder.
“Today, our inspectors in Farnborough will start working on the recorder, which was subject to intense heat as a result of the post-accident fire,” the AAIB said in a statement.
“We expect to be here until the end of the week, at which point we will transport the wreckage to our specialist facilities in Farnborough for more detailed examination. In the meantime, we are still gathering evidence as part of our investigation.”
Vichai bought the unheralded central England side in 2010 and went on to stun the soccer world by beating odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League title in 2016 in what amounted to a sporting fairy tale.
Prime Minister Theresa May was among the many who sent messages of condolence while tributes have flooded in from Leicester players and across the soccer world.
Britain’s Prince William, President of the English Football Association, said he had known Vichai for several years.
“He made such a big contribution to football, not least through Leicester City’s magical 2016 season that captured the imagination of the world,” William said in a statement.
“He will be missed by all fans of the sport and everyone lucky enough to have known him.”
(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)