Le­ices­ter owner is con­firmed dead in crash

The chan­nel queasily struck names from list of pos­si­ble ca­su­al­ties

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - JA­COB STEINBERG and HE­LEN PIDD

Le­ices­ter City con­firmed last night that the club’s owner was one of five pas­sen­gers to lose their lives in a helicopter crash out­side the club’s sta­dium on Satur­day night.

Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, who bought Le­ices­ter for £39 mil­lion in 2010, boarded the helicopter af­ter watch­ing his team’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United in the Pre­mier League. The Thai bil­lion­aire’s helicopter took off from the pitch at around 8.30pm and erupted in flames af­ter crash­ing in an empty car park near the south-east cor­ner of the King Power Sta­dium.

The club con­firmed that none of the five peo­ple on board sur­vived.

The author­i­ties spent yesterday try­ing to find out the iden­tity of the other pas­sen­gers. Po­lice said the other four peo­ple were be­lieved to be two of Sri­vad­dhanaprabha’s staff Nur­sara Suk­na­mai and Kave­porn Pun­pare, pi­lot Eric Swaf­fer and pas­sen­ger Iz­abela Roza Le­chow­icz. The force said for­mal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion had not been com­pleted and no one else was be­lieved to be in­jured.

Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, who has two sons and two daugh­ters, was the only mem­ber of his fam­ily on the flight. The 60-year-old was due to fly to Lu­ton Air­port be­fore tak­ing a pri­vate jet back to Thai­land. Sri­vad­dhanaprabha is a hugely pop­u­lar fig­ure with Le­ices­ter sup­port­ers, hav­ing provided the back­ing that saw them win their first-ever Pre­mier League ti­tle in 2016.

Eye­wit­nesses said that the Au­gusta AW169 helicopter strug­gled to clear the roof of the sta­dium and spi­ralled to ground af­ter de­vel­op­ing a fault around an hour af­ter the end of the game. Emer­gency ser­vices rushed to the scene to tackle a huge fire af­ter the helicopter ex­ploded.

Pay re­spects

Aiyawatt Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, Le­ices­ter’s vice-chair­man and Vichai’s son, flew to the UK from Thai­land on Sun­day.The tragedy has rocked the city, with sup­port­ers flock­ing to the sta­dium to pay their re­spects on yesterday.

Chaos and con­fu­sion had reigned dur­ing the ini­tial af­ter­math of the ac­ci­dent. On­look­ers walked away from the scene in ob­vi­ous dis­tress and Kasper Sch­me­ichel, Le­ices­ter’s goal­keeper, was seen in tears out­side the ground.

Le­ices­ter’s home game against Southamp­ton in the English League Carabao Cup to­mor­row night has been called off.

Play­ers in Pre­mier League matches yesterday wore black arm­bands as a mark of re­spect and minute’s si­lences were held be­fore many games. The Le­ices­ter man­ager, Claude Puel, spoke of his sad­ness at the news. “It’s a tragedy for the club,” he said. “I think very strongly about the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies . . . I’m ter­ri­bly sad.”

Through­out yesterday fans ar­rived at the ground to pay trib­ute, leav­ing flow­ers, scarves and foot­ball shirts. Not all were Le­ices­ter fans. A Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers sup­porter laid down his club’s shirt that read: “Di­vided by colours, united by grief.” – Guardian

In be­tween the cease­less spec­u­lat­ing, they were wan­der­ing about the place stick­ing mi­cro­phones in fans’ faces and ask­ing them how sad/wor­ried they were

There can’t be a weirder tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence than watch­ing Sky Sports News re­port­ing live on a tragic in­ci­dent, the tone of the coverage not markedly dif­fer­ent to what you might find on the chan­nel on trans­fer dead­line day. With a sim­i­lar dearth of facts. And hours and hours of spec­u­la­tion to fill the gaps.

In fair­ness, live re­port­ing on tragic in­ci­dents isn’t their area of spe­cial­ity, but still.

“You have to say, can any­one sur­vive that? We’ll keep you posted at Sky Sports News!”

That live rewind but­ton is handy: it al­lowed view­ers to dou­ble-check that Rob Dorsett had in­deed ut­tered that line. Alan Par­tridge might even have thought it a bit doltish.

By then you wouldn’t have been sur­prised if Rob had lo­cated Harry Red­knapp to have a chat with him through his rolled-down car win­dow about the night’s hor­ri­ble events.

Mind you, the news chan­nels weren’t far­ing much bet­ter. That rush to be first with the news, even if the news they share con­tains not a morsel of truth, is an af­flic­tion that shows no sign of abat­ing.

“If it’s con­firmed that the Le­ices­ter City chair­man – and I now un­der­stand from re­ports that the man­ager might have been on board, too – what does that sug­gest for the fu­ture of the club?” a BBC news­reader, whose name went un­caught, asked a reporter at the ground.

So, not only was she re­peat­ing un­founded ru­mours that Claude Puel was on the helicopter, she was won­der­ing what im­pact his demise might have on the club. That was sen­si­tive. The only sur­prise was that she didn’t add: “Will it have an im­pact on their ac­tiv­ity in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow?”

Twit­ter jour­nal­ism

Mean­while, over on Sky News. “There are some re­ports from Twit­ter that this may be the helicopter of the owner,” said the news­reader, con­firm­ing that the be­he­moth of a news or­gan­i­sa­tion now uses Twit­ter eggs as sources. This is pos­si­bly not an ideal de­vel­op­ment.

Back on SSN, Rob found a fan by the name of John. “As a Le­ices­ter City sup­porter, this is re­ally wor­ry­ing,” he said to him. “It’s aw­ful,” said John. “No one wants this, do they? They’ve been vi­tal to our suc­cess.”

By now you re­ally wanted SSN to pack up their trucks and go home. But they were there for the whole night, and in be­tween the cease­less spec­u­lat­ing, they were wan­der­ing about the place stick­ing mi­cro­phones in fans’ faces and ask­ing them how sad/wor­ried they were.

“We don’t want to spec­u­late too much, if at all, about who was on board,” said Rob. “There’ll be next of kin and fam­ily and friends wor­ried about loved ones right now.” And then SSN be­gan list­ing out every per­son who might pos­si­bly have been on the helicopter.

Later, Rob al­lowed us strike two names from the list, like it was a game of bingo: “I do have a crumb of com­fort for Le­ices­ter City sup­port­ers be­cause two peo­ple who weren’t on board were Jon Rud­kin, the direc­tor of foot­ball, and Aiyawatt Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, the vice-chair­man.” Tum­mies queasy at this point.

‘Dis­turb­ing’

Come morn­ing, Gary Cot­ter­ill was on duty for the chan­nel at Le­ices­ter’s ground and with noth­ing at all of­fi­cially con­firmed, he be­gan won­der­ing out loud if the crash was due to pi­lot er­ror. No, he did, hon­est.

Then Rob reap­peared. “What more do we ac­tu­ally know about what hap­pened?” he was asked. “Very lit­tle,” he con­fessed, so SSN filled some time by in­ter­view­ing their cam­era­man Dan, who had filmed the helicopter in flames. “The pic­tures are dis­turb­ing,” we were warned, but they showed them any­way and re­minded us, lest we didn’t catch it the first 39 times, that it was Dan their cam­era­man who had filmed the helicopter.

By mid-af­ter­noon, the only thing we knew for cer­tain was that rolling sports news chan­nels re­ally shouldn’t do live re­port­ing on tragic events.

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