The chopper took off from the pitch, as it customarily does, and went down just after clearing the stadium. Leicestershire police believe the others killed were Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare — members of Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff — and pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, who also was a pilot. The helicopter, according to the Telegraph, was destined for Luton Airport, with Srivaddhanaprabha scheduled to fly to Thailand. Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the owner’s son and the team’s vice chairman, and his wife, Aimon Srivaddhanaprabha, immediately headed to England from Thailand on Sunday morning.
Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, said the owner “will be missed by all fans of the sport and everyone lucky enough to have known him.”
Leicester players, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and former Leicester and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, were among those in tears as the fire burned for more than 20 minutes. “I cannot believe this is happening," Schmeichel wrote in a lengthy statement. “I am so totally devastated and heartbroken. I just cannot believe what I saw [Saturday] night. It just doesn’t seem real.”
On Instagram, the team’s star striker, Jamie Vardy, said of Srivaddhanaprabha: “Struggling to find the right words … but to me you are legend, an incredible man who had the biggest heart, the soul of Leicester City Football Club. Thank you for everything you did for me, my family and our club. I will truly miss you … may you rest in peace.”
In social media posts, players on other English Premier League teams reacted with shock and sadness.
“A truly sad day for football,” Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah said on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who tragically passed away.”
“My deepest condolences to the Leicester family. RIP to all who lost their lives,” Manchester City’s David Silva wrote. And teammate Sergio Aguero said, “My heart goes out to you,” adding the hashtag, “#PrayForLeicester.”
Srivaddhanaprabha was the owner or the Thai duty-free company King Power and, according to Forbes, the fifth-richest man in Thailand with an estimated net worth of $4.9 billion. He and his family purchased the football club in 2010 and it went on to win the league title six years later. That improbable win made him fan favorite.
Club ambassador Alan Birchenall told the BBC that Leicester City owed “everything” to the owner. “We wouldn’t have won it [the Premier League] without him,” he said. "We wouldn’t have got near it without him.
“There won’t be a dry eye among any of the staff today.”
Premier League players wore black armbands during Sunday’s matches and Prime Minister Theresa May called the memorials "a testament to how many people’s lives were touched by those on board.”
That was especially true as far as Schmeichel was concerned. “You changed football,” he wrote. “Forever! You gave hope to everyone that the impossible was possible, not just to our fans but to fans all over the world in any sport!”