Leicester City football club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai billionaire, was killed along with four others when his helicopter crashed and then exploded after a Premier League match on Saturday.
Vichai bought the unheralded central England side in 2010 and went on to stun the football world by beating odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League title in 2016 in what amounted to a sporting fairy tale. The father of four and founder of duty-free King Power International was a huge favourite with the club’s fans.
“It is with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart that we confirm our chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was among those to have tragically lost their lives on Saturday evening when a helicopter carrying him and four other people crashed outside King Power Stadium,” a club statement said on Sunday.
The aircraft came down in a car park near the King Power stadium shortly after 19:30 GMT, about an hour after the end of Leicester City’s game against West Ham United, police said.
The other victims were believed to be two members of his staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz, Leicestershire Police said.
Fans reacted with sadness and disbelief after the football club posted a statement on Facebook confirming Vichai’s death.
One fan, identified as Joel Spencer, said Vichai had “made the impossible possible” and turned millions of dreams into reality with his leadership of LCFC.
“You lifted an entire city. You lifted an entire nation and an entire world. You showed that when the odds are stacked against you nothing is impossible, inspiring hope and dreams in the hearts of all of us,” he added.
Facebook user Panrawee Rungskunroch also remembered Vichai for his philanthropy.
“Not only made the Leicester football club success, but Khun Vichai S. also kindly donated his huge funding to support suburban hospitals in Thailand through the charity run last year,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, other big names in football have expressed their condolences through various media.
English Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore in a statement:
“Vichai was a gentleman who graced the game with his civility and charm and we will miss him enormously. His impact on Leicester – the football club and city – will be remembered forever.”
Leicester City captain Wes Morgan tweeted:
“Absolutely heartbroken and devastated regarding the news of our chairman. A man that was loved and adored… . ”
— Wes Morgan (@Wes5L1nk) October 28, 2018
Leicester City and Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel:
— Kasper Schmeichel (@kschmeichel1) October 28, 2018
“You changed football. 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!”
Leicester City’s Austria defender Christian Fuchs tweeted a photo of himself with a smiling Vichai and the words “THANK YOU”.
— Christian Fuchs (@FuchsOfficial) October 28, 2018
Leicester City and England defender Ben Chilwell:
“I can’t believe it. I’m heartbroken to hear that no-one survived the crash yesterday. Vichai was one of the best people you could wish to meet, making you happy made him happy, he was always smiling and laughing. What he did for not just this football club but for Leicester as a city is incredible. He bought us all together.”
— Ben Chilwell (@BenChilwell) October 28, 2018
Leicester City’s England defender Harry Maguire:
“Words can’t describe how I feel. A truly great, kind loving man who will missed so much by everyone.”
Words can’t describe how I feel. A truly great, kind, loving man who will be missed so much by everyone.
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) October 28, 2018
Leicester and England Under-21 midfielder James Maddison:
“Devastated and heartbroken at the news that no one survived the helicopter crash yesterday. Life isn’t fair sometimes. A wonderful thoughtful man who lived and breathed Leicester City Football Club. Rest in Peace Boss”.
Devastated and heartbroken at the news that no one survived the helicopter crash yesterday 💔 Life isn’t fair sometimes. A wonderful thoughtful man who lived and breathed Leicester City Football Club. Rest in Peace Boss 💙 #ThanksBoss pic.twitter.com/vJmksNjFf5
— James Maddison (@Madders10) October 28, 2018
Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah:
“A truly sad day for football.”
A truly sad day for football. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who tragically passed away. #LCFC
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) October 28, 2018
Leicester’s opponents West Ham United:
“We would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at this sad and tragic time. His immense contribution to Leicester City FC, the city of Leicester and English football will never be forgotten. Our condolences also go to the other families affected by the tragedy.”
We would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and to the other families affected at this sad and tragic time.https://t.co/zefq12ngU4
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) October 28, 2018
Business Insider Singapore added to this report.