Leicester City’s charismatic Thai chairman was the subject of growing concerns on Sunday after a helicopter belonging to the billionaire crashed and burst into flames in the stadium carpark shortly after taking off from the club’s pitch in the wake of their 1-1 draw with West Ham.
There was no confirmation whether London-based Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who frequently flies to and from Leicester’s home games by helicopter, was on board the aircraft which appeared to develop mechanical problems.
The BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent tweeted that a “source close to the family” had confirmed he was on board, but there was no word from Leicester City or from Thai officials of King Power, Vichai’s duty-free shopping empire.
Images showed smoke rising from the fiery wreckage in the carpark at King Power Stadium — the scene of unbridled jubilation after Leicester’s against-all-odds Premier League title victory in 2016.
None of the identities of the pilot or passengers was revealed, and there was also no information about whether anyone on the ground was injured.
“We are assisting Leicestershire Police and the emergency services in dealing with a major incident at King Power Stadium,” the club said in a statement.
Meanwhile, expressions of concern have been pouring in from around the football world, with England legend Gary Lineker, a former Leicester player and host of the BBC’s Match of the Day, tweeting: “That was the most difficult @BBCMOTD I’ve ever hosted… A terrible tragedy. Heartbreaking.”
Leicester footballers Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire both tweeted praying hands emojis and West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta, who also played in Saturday’s game, tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved in the helicopter accident at Leicester City.”
It was under Vichai’s ownership that Leicester pulled off one of the biggest fairy-tales in English football history by winning the 2015/16 Premier League, having started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.