LEICESTER, England — A helicopter belonging to Leicester City’s owner crashed in flames in a carpark next to the soccer club’s stadium following the conclusion of a Premier League game on Saturday night. There has been no official statement about who was on board the helicopter that plummeted to the ground shortly after it took off from the field following the game between Leicester and West Ham on Saturday night.
However, BBC News reported a source close to the Srivaddhanaprabha family as saying the club’s 60-year-old chairman was on board.
In its most recent update, the central England club has said it is assisting authorities with “a major incident” at the stadium. Small bouquets, soccer jerseys and flags were left by members of the public alongside a large image of the Hindu god Ganesh, which was also propped up among the flowers. A small candle was placed in front of the flowers as people gathered at the stadium.
Leicestershire Police asked the public for patience as the police worked “with a number of other agencies” to get an update out to the public and press.
Early Sunday, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andrew Brodie tweeted that the accident was “clearly serious and tragic,” adding “please don’t speculate on cause or who may be involved. Think of families, friends, responders, and (Leicester City) and their fans.”
Leicester Police said in a statement that its Air Accident Investigation Branch was working alongside the emergency services and the club to “establish the exact circumstances of the collision.”
Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Leicester players and staff, including Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, former Leicester and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and distressed club supporters were seen in tears as the helicopter fire raged. The paper reported it took more than 20 minutes for the flames to be extinguished before emergency services were able to survey the wreckage.
Srivaddhanaprabha bought the team in 2010. He is also the owner of Thai duty-free retail giant King Power, who is the primary sponsor of both the football club and their stadium and said by Forbes to be the fifth-richest person in Thailand. His funding helped the team improbably win the Premier League at odds of 5,000-1 in 2016.
In a scene regularly seen after matches, Vichai’s aircraft arrived in the King Power Stadium after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham before taking off from the center circle. The helicopter usually takes Srivaddhanaprabha back to his English base, in Berkshire, outside London.
Photographer Ryan Brown reported hearing the engine stopping after the helicopter cleared the stadium.
“I turned round and it made a bit of a whirring noise, like a grinding noise,” Brown told the BBC. “The helicopter just went silent, I turned round and it was just spinning, out of control. And then there was a big bang and then (a) big fireball.”
British broadcaster BT Sport was presenting its post-game show in the stadium when the helicopter took off.
“It suddenly got very serious,” BT presenter Jake Humphrey announced later on air. “The helicopter has crashed. It has crashed in the club carpark … we heard a commotion.”
The local ambulance service said it received reports of a helicopter crash at 8:38 p.m. local time and sent a doctor, two paramedics in ambulance cars, a crewed ambulance and its Hazardous Area Response Team. The ambulance service said the first resource arrived within two minutes of the call.
An indication of concerns within the Leicester squad came on social media. The emoji of praying hands was tweeted by several players, including striker Jamie Vardy, whose goals helped the 134-year-old team win the English title for the first time in 2016.
This is the second piece of bad news for U.K. football fans. Earlier Saturday morning, BT Sport commentator and former Tottenham and England National Team midfielder Glenn Hoddle collapsed from a heart attack in the BT Sport studios. Though, the BBC reports Hoddle is responding well to treatment.
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