A helicopter belonging to Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha burst into flames after it crashed yards away from the King Power stadium after taking off from the pitch inside on Saturday night.
Witnesses reported seeing the Augusta Westland AW-169 aircraft suffering engine trouble and spinning out of control shortly after it took off from the centre-circle.
The condition of billionaire Mr Srivaddhanaprabha is not known, but he is believed to have been on board according to BT Sports pundits in the stadium who watched the helicopter take off.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, who has a home in Berkshire and an apartment in London, made his money in retail in Thailand and his King Power shops are in every airport in the Asian country.
The sound of the helicopter crash could be heard on a BT Sport post-match broadcast and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is said to have witnessed the crash and broke down in tears.
Fans were shell-shocked and some broke down in tears as the helicopter plummeted to the ground near the club’s staff car park at around 8.30pm on Saturday, shortly after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.
The £2million aircraft was spotted hovering over the south east corner of the ground before spluttering and spiraling to ground, near Filbert Way, and bursting into flames.
BT Sports cameras captured the moments leading up to the helicopter preparing for take-off as presenter Jake Humphreys seemed to confirm Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was on board.
Spectators at the game said they witnessed the helicopter spinning out of control and that there was a problem with the tail rotor of the aircraft.
One man, who wished not to be named, but has had a season ticket for over 40 years, told Sky News: ‘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.’
Former England legend Peter Shilton and his wife witnessed the carnage unfold.
His partner Stephanie, 50, said: ‘We are both in shock on our way home. It happened straight in front of us as we were leaving the ground.
‘We don’t know what has happened. It’s horrendous. We need to know if everyone is OK. That’s the biggest thing. We just hope that everyone got out OK.’
A reporter for Sky Sports News said people were ‘running for their lives’ in the aftermath of the crash.
Rob Dorsett said: ‘The car park was certainly it was still populated with people at the time whether that was members of staff leaving the stadium or spectators watching the game. It’s so close to the stadium, a couple of hundred metres – if that – from the stands.
‘There has be to concern for people who are walking back to their cars or get buses back to the train station and any impact that would have.
‘An eye-witness and his nephew ran for their lives, they were that concerned they were going to be hit by the wreckage of the helicopter. It burst into flames as it hit the ground. There has to be concerns for people in and around the area after the game.
‘However, we must stress, the majority of the crowd would have left by that time.’
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s and his entourage leaving the King Power by helicopter has become a familiar sight as he frequently takes off from the centre circle of Leicester’s ground.
It is unclear whether there were any injuries on the ground but Leicester’s vice-chairman Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddanaprabha and Leicester Director of Football John Rudkin were not on board the helicopter, according to Sky sources.
Photographs near the crash site show at least one vehicle with its windows blown out and its roof burnt.
An ambulance and ambulance car was filmed driving slowly away from the King Power stadium shortly before 10.30pm.
Tim Acott, Leicester season ticket holder of 40 years, said: ‘It just came out of the stadium already spinning then down to the ground.
‘Just in a spiral. It hit the ground with a big bang then burst into flames. It’s over on the other side of the car park, I don’t think there were people there. I’m shaking like anything.’
A Leicester City fan named John, who was at the game today, told Sky Sports News: ‘We was in the bar facing the King Power – my nephew was in a real state of shock. He said he saw this helicopter out of control then drop within a second and burst into flames.
‘He was so upset – we’re all thinking about the owners here and what they’ve done for the football club. It’s awful, you can’t believe it.’
The area around the ground has been closed off, while the stadium was evacuated. West Ham’s team bus had already left, though some Leicester players were still inside the stadium.
Leicester City defender Harry Maguire tweeted a video of the aftermath of the crash with praying hands emojis. Midfielder James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy also posted the same emojis following the game.
England and Leicester City defender Ben Chilwell tweeted: ‘Speechless.’
Former Foxes midfielder turned pundit Robbie Savage said: ‘What an absolutely terrible terrible day , my thoughts and prayers are with everyone at my old club Leicester city.’
Former Leicester City striker and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: ‘Hearing that the Leicester City owners’ helicopter has crashed in the club’s car park.’
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.’
Leicestershire police said in a statement: ‘We are dealing with an incident in the vicinity of the King Power Stadium. Emergency services are aware and dealing.’
East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: ‘We received a call at 8.38pm this evening to reports of a helicopter crash near King Power Stadium. We sent a doctor, 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.
‘We are currently working with our colleagues in Leicestershire Police and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service at the scene.
We advise members of the public to stay away from the area while we deal with this incident.’
King Power are due to release a statement tomorrow once more details have been confirmed.
Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester City in August 2010 and was named chairman in February 2011.
The club famously defied odds of 5,000-1 to clinch the Premier League title in the 2015-16 season – as Srivaddhanaprabha gifted each player their own £100,000 BMW i8 as a reward for their unprecedented success.
Srivaddhanaprabha was born in Bangkok on April 4, 1958 to a Thai Chinese family.
The Thai billionaire Srivaddhanaprabha kick-started his business journey by opening a duty free shop back in Bangkok in 1989 at the age of 31.
His retail company, King Power, is now a staple of the country’s airports and the brand also have the naming rights to Leicester City’s stadium.
SOURCE: DailyMail, by CHARLIE BAYLISS and ROB DRAPER and LAURIE WHITWELL