The black box recorder of the Leicester City owner’s helicopter was found today as police denied rumours one of its drones caused the crash.
Investigators are carrying out forensic work on the wreckage outside the King Power Stadium where Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died on Saturday night.
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 suggested.
Witnesses reported seeing the stricken aircraft losing control and spinning rapidly seconds after lifting off from the turf at the King Power stadium.
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
Today the scorched wreckage of the AW169 AgustaWestland was covered up as air accident investigators took over from police and they found the black box
It crashed into the stadium car park about 200 yards away at around 8.30pm and some reported hearing a ‘grinding noise’ and then an eerie silence as the engine of the AgustaWestland AW169 stopped in mid-air.
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
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.’
And it is hoped the block box will tell them exactly what went wrong and recorded what the pilots said as the aircraft fell from the sky.
In a statement, the AAIB said: ‘A team of inspectors and support staff travelled to Leicester on Saturday night, with further inspectors travelling yesterday morning. Last night, the police said they believe that tragically all five people on board the aircraft died in the accident.
‘We have inspectors here from all four air accident investigation disciplines: engineering, operations, flight data and human factors.
‘We recovered the digital flight data recorder (voice and data) on Sunday afternoon and one of our inspectors travelled back to Farnborough with the recorder the same evening. Today, our inspectors in Farnborough will start working on the recorder, which was subject to intense heat as a result of the post-accident fire.
‘Our inspectors are continuing to work with the police on site. We expect to be here until the end of the week, at which point we will transport the wreckage to our specialist facilities in Farnborough for more detailed examination. In the meantime, we are still gathering evidence as part of our investigation.’
Leicestershire Police today 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.’
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha perished alongside two staff and two pilots on Saturday night
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 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
Witnesses said pilot Eric Swaffer prevented greater loss of life by steering the doomed craft away from crowds of fans.
And two policeman were hailed for their bravery in trying to rescue the passengers before the helicopter exploded.
All five on board died in Saturday night’s crash. 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’.
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)
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
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.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been called in.
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.’