Football/Soccer

PICTURE GALLERY: Sven-Goran Eriksson hails Leicester owner Srivaddhanaprabha after tragic helicopter crash

28 October, 2018 15:56

Sven-Goran Eriksson has hailed "very, very generous" Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the "incredible" impact he has had on the club following the tragic helicopter crash on Saturday night.

The helicopter of Srivaddhanaprabha came down outside the King Power Stadium shortly after the Premier League game against West Ham.

It is believed the owner was on board but an official statement on passengers has yet to be released.

Eriksson was the first manager to be hired by the Thai billionaire after he took charge of the club in 2010 and the Swede told BBC Radio Five Live: "It's frightening news.

"I saw the news, of course, this morning and I still hope it's not true and he's alive of course.

"I knew the whole family and the father. When you know him, as i did, you knew he's a very, very generous man - to the players, the staff and people working for him - with the fans and the community. He's an extremely generous man."

Srivaddhanaprabha regularly gives supporters free beer and pies at matches to mark special occasions and makes donations to the city hospital. He even treated the 2016 title-winning squad to a fleet of blue BMW's.

"With the fans and the community, I know him, he was extremely generous," said Eriksson. "Not only paying salaries and things like that. Out shopping in London and he paid for jackets and things like that. Very, very generous generally. A generous man."

Eriksson's appointment came following Leicester's promotion as League One champions but even then at that early stage, Srivaddhanaprabha had his sights set on taking the club to the Premier League.

"What he has done for Leicester is incredible," said Eriksson. "He made the club from second division up to first division winning and made the club a big Premier League club today, fantastic.

"He was always there with his family and son "Top" (Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha) and his wife. He was at every game during my time there and took part and were at training and talked to the manager and the players.

"When I came to the club he said he wanted to make it a big Premier League club, there were no secrets about that.

"He sacked me but he did well, he was right to do it. I bought the wrong players and I failed and it was fair of him to do it."

Sunday's Women's Championship clash between Leicester and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium was called off following the crash. The ladies reserve league match against Derby was also postponed.

It is believed no decision has been made yet as to whether Leicester's EFL Cup game against Southampton at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night will go ahead.

Srivaddhanaprabha was on the helicopter at the time of the incident, according to reports from the BBC.

Witnesses said the helicopter seemed to spiral out of control moments after it set off at about 8.30pm on Saturday and plummeted into the car park.

Police cars and emergency services rushed towards an area where flames were visible before the area was evacuated.

Leicestershire Police said: "The aircraft came down in a car park near the stadium shortly after 8.30pm, with Leicestershire Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service all responding to the incident."

Srivaddhanaprabha leaves the stadium by his helicopter, which lands in the centre circle on the pitch, after every Leicester home game.

Srivaddhanaprabha, who owns the King Power company, bought Leicester in 2010 and became chairman the following February.

One witness told Sky News: "I hope they're okay. Doesn't seem like they have had much of a chance. (It) just burst into flames."

Pete Ripley, associate director of operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: "We received a call at 8.38pm on 27 October to reports of a helicopter crash in the car park of King Power Stadium in Leicester.

"We have sent a doctor in a car, two paramedics in ambulance cars, a crewed ambulance and our Hazardous Area Response Team, with the first resource arriving within two minutes of the call."

A Leicester City spokesman said: "We are assisting Leicestershire Police and the emergency services in dealing with a major incident at King Power Stadium. The club will issue a more detailed statement once further information has been established."

Witnesses told Sky Sports News the helicopter took off from the pitch but lost control within a few seconds and crashed into the club's staff car park.

One fan told Sky News the owner and his family have done so much for the club.

He said: "They have conducted themselves so well, they have put everything into us. They have made us champions. You cannot ask for more from your owners."

Police said the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) would be leading the inquiry into the circumstances of the crash, adding that a cordon would remain in place while inspectors examined the scene.

Megan Blockley, who was across the road when the crash happened, said: "The damage was really bad. They'd just put the fire out when I got there and it had been burned right through.

"I was just in the bingo hall across the road and I heard the sirens. I rushed out and there were four fire engines and loads of police."

One man, who wished not to be named, but has had a season ticket for over 40 years, said: "I saw Kasper Schmeichel run out first and then loads of security guards and stewards.

"I was stood outside the ground but it crashed on the other side. I hope everyone is OK."

Leicester footballers Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire both tweeted praying hands emojis, while former Leicester striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker passed on his thoughts.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, tweeted: "Awful horrific scenes at LCFC with the helicopter crash. I've been in touch with our emergency services and thanked them for responding so quickly. Our hopes and prayers for all those caught up in this desperately awful incident."

Leicester's Hospitals tweeted: "We are aware of the incident in the vicinity of the King Power Stadium and are supporting emergency services."

Andrew Brodie, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, tweeted: "IMPORTANT: Emergency Services are dealing with a significant incident lcfc King Power stadium. It's essential you stay away and allow 999s free movement. More info will follow."

West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta, who played in the game, tweeted: "My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved in the helicopter accident at Leicester City."

His team-mate Declan Rice tweeted: "Horrendous scenes at the king power tonight, my prayers & thoughts go out to everyone involved at Leicester."

28 October, 2018 15:56 Football/Soccer

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