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Leicester City helicopter crash sparked by major failure of tail rotor

The helicopter crash that killed Leicester City’s billionaire owner and four others was caused by the tail roto breaking off in mid-air, a senior crash investigator revealed today.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s aircraft was seen spiralling through the sky and into the ground on Saturday night after falling into a ‘dead man’s curve’ shortly after taking off from inside the King Power Stadium.

The stricken aircraft was spinning rapidly seconds after lifting off and crashed just away from the packed stadium car park at around 8.30pm.

Tony Cable, a former senior investigator at the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB), has watched footage and said: ‘The takeoff looked normal but as it hovered above the stadium you can see pieces falling away. It looks like from the rear rotor blades.

‘It is consistent with a tail rotor breaking off. There are lots of pieces flying around. If you lose a large proportion of the blade you get a very large imbalance and pull the whole tail rotor off the aircraft’.  

The doomed Leicester City helicopter pilot may have been become stuck in a ‘dead man’s curve’ after the aircraft’s tail rotor failed, experts have said

The scorched wreckage of the AW169 AgustaWestland remains in the same spot today as it is examined

The scorched wreckage of the AW169 AgustaWestland remains in the same spot today as it is examined

 Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha perished alongside two staff and two pilots on Saturday night in a tragedy that has shocked Britain and Thailand

 Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha perished alongside two staff and two pilots on Saturday night in a tragedy that has shocked Britain and Thailand

Helicopters could face stadium ban after Leicester crash

Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had his helicopter land in the centre of the pitch at the club's King Power stadium last night before it lost control and crashed back down

Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had his helicopter land in the centre of the pitch at the club’s King Power stadium last night before it lost control and crashed back down

Football bosses are under pressure to ban helicopters from stadiums after the tragic crash at Leicester City .

Leicester FC’s billionaire owner Vichai died along with two pilots and two passengers after his helicopter crashed outside the King Power stadium.

It brought back haunting memories for many devastated football fans, with the crash coming almost 22 years to the day that a similar incident claimed the life of Chelsea vice chairman Matthew Harding.

Others called for a ban on helicopters at football stadiums over claims the pilot avoided an even bigger tragedy by diverting it into the car park and away from fans and staff.

One senior football official told the Daily Telegraph he would support stricter rules on the aircrafts after fans on Twitter said they would also back a ban.

Early reports suggested fans still at the King Power stadium after the LCFC West Ham game yesterday were forced to ‘run for their lives’ when the helicopter came crashing down from 200ft in the air.

One person wrote on Twitter: ‘Due respect to those who have lost their lives but don’t you think it’s time for to be helicopters to be banned from using football pitches as landing pads ?’

Another posted: ‘I think the people of Leicester should be relieved that no innocent bystander seems to be injured. Choppers should be banned from using such regularly crowded areas.’  

He told Sky News: ‘The usual thing to do is to chop the power and enter a controlled descent and that was clearly way out of control and do an engine off landing. Pilots are trained for this. 

He added: ‘It is survivable with the appropriate technique. It shouldn’t be catastrophic’.

Some witnesses reported hearing a ‘grinding noise’ and then an eerie silence as the engine of the AgustaWestland AW169 stopped in mid-air and it fell from the sky. 

And today new footage shows the helicopter take off normally before suddenly spinning wildly and crashing downwards into a fireball.

Pilot Eric Swaffer and his co-pilot Izabela Lechowicz, who was also his girlfriend, prevented greater loss of life by steering the doomed craft away from crowds of fans. 

The black box recorder of the Leicester City owner’s helicopter has been but police were forced to deny rumours one of its drones caused the crash.

Investigators are still carrying out forensic work on the wreckage outside the King Power Stadium where Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died on Saturday night. 

The block box will tell them exactly what went wrong and recorded what the pilots said before it went down.

Leicestershire Police denied claims one of its drones caused the helicopter crash.

Rumours circulating online suggested it may have collided with a drone operated by Leicestershire Police monitoring trouble between rival fans following Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United.

But the force has now dismissed the speculation. 

Writing on Twitter, the Leicestershire Police Events account posted: ‘We do deploy a drone for public safety purposes on some match days.

‘However, we have confirmed that the drone was not in flight at the time the helicopter left the stadium on Saturday evening.’

All five on board died in Saturday night’s crash. 

Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had his helicopter land in the centre of the pitch at the club's King Power stadium last night before it lost control and crashed back down

Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had his helicopter land in the centre of the pitch at the club’s King Power stadium last night before it lost control and crashed back down

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's aircraft (pictured) then hovers over the ground for an 'unusually long' period of time before it spins violently out of control

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s aircraft (pictured) then hovers over the ground for an ‘unusually long’ period of time before it spins violently out of control

They included Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Mr Swaffer and his partner Izabela Lechowicz, a 46-year-old pilot. Nursara Suknamai – a runner up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005 – and Kaveporn Punpare died as well. 

They both worked for the Thai duty-free billionaire.

The helicopter, which belonged to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, spiralled out of control moments after taking off from the pitch following a Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. Instead of crashing into the stands and hospitality areas it came down in an empty car park 200 yards from the stadium before erupting in a fireball.

It avoided busy roads and the last of the 31,000 fans who were still in the area along with dozens of police officers. Experts suspect the tail rotor failed, sending the £6million AgustaWestland into a ‘dead man’s curve’ that no pilot could handle.

Mr Swaffer, 53, and Miss Lechowicz lived in a £1.2million seven-bedroom mansion in Camberley, Surrey. He has posted a number of pictures from King Power Stadium on his social media accounts and one of him with the Dalai Lama.

In an interview, the London-born pilot once said his most memorable flight was ‘winching an injured person on board a helicopter from a ship 100 miles north of the Shetland Islands, in 70mph winds and deep swell’.

Kaveporn Punpare was an assistant to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and sadly perished in the doomed flight, alongside his colleagues and the chairman

Nusara Suknamai, a former beauty queen who worked for the billionaire, died in the crash

Kaveporn Punpare was an assistant to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and sadly perished in the doomed flight, alongside his colleague Nusara Suknamai, right, a former beauty queen who worked for the billionaire

Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer pictured in the cockpit. Mr Srivaddhanaprabha's helicopter was heading for Luton Airport where he was due to catch a flight to Thailand, Leicester sources said today

Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer pictured in the cockpit on a previous trip, and right on Saturday landing on the pitch before their crash minutes later, were heading for Luton Airport when they crashed

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son and heir Aiyawatt (right) and his mother Aimon (left) were among the mourners who flew to the Midlands from Thailand to lay a wreath outside the King Power Stadium

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s son and heir Aiyawatt (right) and his mother Aimon (left) were among the mourners who flew to the Midlands from Thailand to lay a wreath outside the King Power Stadium

Emotional star players including Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel were visibly moved as they went to the shrine outside the King Power with his son (left)

Emotional star players including Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel were visibly moved as they went to the shrine outside the King Power with his son (left)

The pilots managed to steer the aircraft away from cars despite the fact it was spinning out of control and smashed into the ground on an industrial estate (circled) away from huge crowds

The pilots managed to steer the aircraft away from cars despite the fact it was spinning out of control and smashed into the ground on an industrial estate (circled) away from huge crowds

The helicopter belonging to Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha crashed outside the King Power Stadium following Leicester's 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday and burst into a flames killing everyone on board

The helicopter belonging to Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha crashed outside the King Power Stadium following Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday and burst into a flames killing everyone on board

Miss Lechowicz has worked as an instructor and tests pilots in flight simulators.

A neighbour said: ‘We’re all devastated, they were a great couple. It’s all very raw. They were at the beck and call of their employers.

‘They worked odd hours. I didn’t know they were working together that night to be honest.’

Another neighbour said: ‘They were a really lovely couple and we’re just all really upset.’

The two police officers were spotted running toward the burning wreckage and trying to smash through the helicopter’s glass windows to pull out survivors, before being forced back by an explosion.

It is not known whether the officer who got closest to the helicopter sustained any injuries but he has suffered trauma and shock, according to Leicestershire Police.

A spokesman said the officer was coming to the end of his matchday shift at the football ground and ran toward the helicopter when it crashed. She said: ‘He went right up to the windows trying to break them, we understand with his baton, which he had been carrying as a matter of course. He wanted to help free the passengers.’

Dan Cox, a Sky Sports News cameraman, described the pilot and police as heroes.

‘I don’t know how the pilot did it but he seemed to manage to slow down the spinning rotation and it drifted off into the corner part of the car park,’ he said.

‘To my mind the pilot was heroic and the two police officers in front of me, who also tried to help, they are heroes too. It could have been so much worse if the pilot hadn’t done that.’

Leicester City season ticket holder Amanda Smith said: ‘The pilot is a hero. How many people were saved by the helicopter landing where it did? Especially when the pilot knew how unlikely it was they would survive.’

The 48-year-old health and safety specialist added: ‘If there was a perfect place to land, that was it – it minimised the risk to life given the busy roads and buildings.’

Joe Birch, 24, a sales assistant, also praised the pilot, saying: ‘If the helicopter had landed anywhere else, there could have been more deaths and serious injuries. The pilot is definitely a hero.’

Mr Birch’s friend Aaran Hodges, 21, added: ‘The pilot did a really good job of keeping the helicopter out of the way of anything on the ground.’

Witnesses reported a ‘whirring and grinding noise’ and seeing the aircraft spinning out of control seconds after lifting off from the pitch at about 8.30pm following Leicester’s match with West Ham. 

Leo Bruka, 27, a Leicester resident, saw the two officers try to help crash survivors.

‘One policeman ran straight away to the helicopter and he was trying to break the window of the helicopter. The other one was inside the car looking for something and then the next minute he had a fire extinguisher trying to prevent the fire.

‘This was all going on for five to ten seconds and then there was an explosion and the policeman and the three or four other guys that were trying to help pulled back because the fire was too hot.’ 

‘I miss you dad with all my heart’: Son of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha pays emotional tribute after helicopter tragedy as he vows to continue his legacy

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the son of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, has vowed to continue honour his father by continuing his legacy at the King Power Stadium.

Thai billionaire Vichai died on Saturday night along with four other passengers when his helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the club’s pitch.

Vichai achieved great things after buying Leicester in 2010 — as the Foxes won promotion from the Championship 2014 before becoming the most unlikely Premier League champions just two years later.

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) covered his mouth as he viewed tributes to father, Vichai

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) covered his mouth as he viewed tributes to father, Vichai

Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, pictured (left) with his son in 2017, died on Saturday night 

Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, pictured (left) with his son in 2017, died on Saturday night 

Aiyawatt visited the King Power Stadium on Monday to view flowers and scarves laid by fans

Aiyawatt visited the King Power Stadium on Monday to view flowers and scarves laid by fans

And Aiyawatt does not want Leicester’s fairytale to end now. In an emotional statement released on Instragram, he paid tribute to his dad and promised to do everything he can ‘to carry on his big vision and dreams’.

The statement read: ‘I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for this overwhelming support. What happened made me realize how important my dad was to many people all over the world and I’m touched by how many people kept him close to their hearts.

‘I’m extremely proud to have such an extraordinary father. From him, I have received a very big mission and legacy to pass on and I intend to do just that. 

‘I know that I will receive the support I need to make this happen and I am grateful for all your messages and kind words.

‘For a long time, my father taught me to be strong and to take care of my family. He had a way of teaching me about life and work without making it seem like a lesson. He was my mentor and role model.

‘Today, he has left me with a legacy to continue and I will do everything I can to carry on his big vision and dreams.

‘My family and I would like to thank each and every one of you for your sincere kindness and good intentions during the most difficult time for us.

‘I miss you dad, with all my heart.

‘Top Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha’.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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