Le­ices­ter’s tragedy

Club owner’s he­li­copter crashes and bursts into flames in King Power sta­dium car park

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - John Percy at the King Power Sta­dium

The he­li­copter of Le­ices­ter City owner Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha has crashed af­ter the Pre­mier League foot­ball match against West Ham last night in what author­i­ties have con­firmed is a ma­jor in­ci­dent.

At around 8.38pm, an hour af­ter the match fin­ished, Sri­vad­dhanaprabha’s he­li­copter took off from the King Power Sta­dium and then plunged down, eye­wit­nesses claim, be­fore crash­ing in the car park near the south­east cor­ner of the ground and erupt­ing in a ball of flames.

Emer­gency ser­vices rushed to the scene and Le­ices­ter play­ers and staff, in­clud­ing their goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel, for­mer Le­ices­ter and Eng­land goal­keeper Pe­ter Shilton and dis­tressed sup­port­ers were seen in tears as the fire raged near the car park.

It is un­der­stood that it took more than 20 min­utes for the flames to be ex­tin­guished be­fore emer­gency ser­vices were able to sur­vey the wreck­age.

There were un­con­firmed re­ports the ac­ci­dent was a re­sult of a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure but de­tails were still scarce late last night. How­ever, it was un­der­stood that Le­ices­ter’s vice-chair­man, Aiyawatt Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, who is the owner Vichai’s son, was not present at yes­ter­day’s game.

One eye­wit­ness said: “The he­li­copter was hov­er­ing near the sta­dium roof af­ter tak­ing off and then it started to come down. There were flames ev­ery­where, it was hor­ri­ble to see it hap­pen in front of us.”

Shilton’s wife, Stephanie, said: “We are both in shock on our way home. It hap­pened straight in front of us as we were leav­ing the ground. We don’t know what has hap­pened. It’s hor­ren­dous. We need to know if ev­ery­one is OK. That’s the big­gest thing. We just hope that ev­ery­one got out OK.”

Leo Bruka, 27, who lives near the sta­dium, told the Tele­graph he was driv­ing home from work when he saw the he­li­copter fall­ing.

“It was spin­ning very quickly. The he­li­copter didn’t fall in the [fans’] car park. It fell in­side the ter­ri­tory of the sta­dium. The car park is very close,” he said. “One of the po­lice­men ran straight away to the he­li­copter and an­other got out a fire ex­tin­guisher. The first po­lice­man was try­ing to break the glass of the he­li­copter, the win­dow, then in this mo­ment I saw a women in tears cry­ing out loud be­cause I think the he­li­copter just missed her, she was about 20 me­tres away.

“The fire just started and then there was an ex­plo­sion. The po­lice­men tried to calm down the fire. The po­lice re­sponse was very quick. This all hap­pened in less than one minute, then I could hear all the po­lice com­ing around the sta­dium. They hadn’t left yet af­ter the match. A po­lice­man asked me to stop film­ing be­cause some­one was in the he­li­copter.”

Tim Acott, a Le­ices­ter sea­son tick­etholder, said: “It just came out of the sta­dium al­ready spin­ning, then down to the ground. Just in a spi­ral. It hit the ground with a big bang then burst into flames. It’s over on the other side of the car park, I don’t think there were peo­ple there. I’m shak­ing like any­thing.”

Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, who owns the Thai duty free com­pany King Power, trav­els to ev­ery home game in his pri­vate he­li­copter and fre­quently takes off from the pitch’s cen­tre-cir­cle af­ter games to re­turn to his Berk­shire base. But on this oc­ca­sion the take-off has ended in a tragedy, with Le­ices­ter un­able to con­firm last night whether there were ca­su­al­ties.

Pete Ri­p­ley, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of op- er­a­tions, East Mid­lands Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, said: “We re­ceived a call at 8.38pm on 27 Oc­to­ber to re­ports of a he­li­copter crash in the car park of King Power Sta­dium in Le­ices­ter.

“We have sent a doc­tor in a car, two paramedics in am­bu­lance cars, a crewed am­bu­lance and our Haz­ardous Area Re­sponse Team, with the first re­source ar­riv­ing within two min­utes of the call. We are cur­rently work­ing with our col­leagues in Le­ices­ter­shire Po­lice and Le­ices­ter­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice at the scene. We ad­vise mem­bers of the pub­lic to stay away from the area while we deal with this in­ci­dent.”

Harry Maguire and Ndidi Wil­fred, both of whom played in the 1-1 draw with West Ham, tweeted mes­sages of sup­port on so­cial me­dia with emo­jis of pray­ing hands.

Le­ices­ter face Southamp­ton in the Carabao Cup at the King Power on Tues­day night but there are al­ready sug­ges­tions the game will not be go­ing ahead. The Sri­vad­dhanaprabha fam­ily com­pleted their takeover of Le­ices­ter City in the sum­mer of 2010, with the club win­ning the league ti­tle against all odds six years later.

‘It was hov­er­ing and then started to come down. There were flames ev­ery­where, it was hor­ri­ble to see ’

Night­mare vi­sion: A mem­ber of the emer­gency ser­vices in­spects the smoul­der­ing shell of the he­li­copter be­long­ing to Le­ices­ter owner Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha af­ter it crashed when leav­ing the sta­dium fol­low­ing their match against West Ham United yes­ter­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.