Egypt’s football legend and current African Footballer of the Year, Mohamed Salah has joined the other English Premier League club’s biggest stars and football fans from all over England in expressing their grief over the Leicester City helicopter crash on Saturday.
It was confirmed none of the five on board survived when the aircraft fell from the sky outside the King Power Stadium at about 8.30pm on Saturday night.
Mo Salah wrote on his verified twitter account: “A truly sad day for football. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who tragically passed away”.
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was seen running towards the stricken helicopter seconds after it crashed and watched it explode and said last night: ‘I cannot believe what I saw. It just doesn’t seem real’.
In a message for the owner who signed him in 2011 he said: ‘Never have I ever come across a man like you. You touched everyone. You changed football. Forever. You gave hope to everyone that the impossible was possible.
‘It is difficult to put into words how much you have meant to this football club and to the city of Leicester. You cared so deeply for the entire community. Your endless contribution to Leicester’s hospitals and charities will never be forgotten.
‘When you signed me back in 2011 you said to me we would be in the Champions League within six years and we would do great things. You inspired me and I believed in you. You literally made my dreams come true’.
Premier league matches took place across the country as fans fell silent in solidarity with Leicester, whose fans gathered to lay flowers at the King Power Stadium.
Supporters branded it Leicester’s ‘darkest day’, paying tribute to the much-loved owner who helped them to a miracle Premier League victory in 2016.
Leicester City FC’s most glamorous moment…2016
Srivaddhanaprabha’s chopper plummeted 200ft and crashed into the car park at the King Power stadium at 8.30pm on Saturday.
It had taken off from the centre circle of the club’s ground, but witnesses claim the engine cut out mid-air and it spiralled out of control.
Instead of crashing into the stands and hospitality areas the aircraft came down on empty land 200 yards from the stadium.
It avoided busy roads and the last of the 31,000 fans still in the area along with dozens of police officers.
Pilot Mr Swaffer was hailed a hero, but experts suspect the aircraft’s tail rotor failed, sending the £6million AugustaWestland AW169 into a ‘dead man’s curve’ that even the best pilot would not have been able to handle.
Fans anxiously awaited confirmation of the identities of all five casualties, which were kept from the public for 24 hours.
In a statement this evening, Leicestershire Police said: ‘Five people are believed to have died when a helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium yesterday evening (Saturday 27 October).
Leicester City FC’s darkest moment...
‘The five people were on board the helicopter when the incident happened. While formal identification has not yet taken place, they are believed to be Leicester City Football Club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of his staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
‘The force has been working to ensure that all the relevant next of kin had been informed prior to this information being confirmed publicly.
‘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. No one else is believed to have been injured.
‘The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is leading the investigation into the accident and a cordon remains in place at the scene while enquiries continue.
Leicestershire Police will be supporting the AAIB in its investigation, liaising closely with Leicester City Football Club as enquiries continue.
Superintendent Steve Potter added: ‘This is an incredibly tragic incident in which five people are understood have lost their lives.
‘Emergency services were immediately on scene when the crash happened, working to put out the fire and gain access to the helicopter in attempts to reach those inside. Despite those efforts, there were no survivors.
‘The AAIB is now leading an investigation to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the crash and investigators will remain at the scene to complete their initial enquiries.
‘It is likely to take several days to fully complete the necessary work and to safely deal with the scene of this tragic accident, during that time we ask that both the media and public resist speculating around the cause of the crash.
‘We appreciate that both the public and media were keen to be updated on the circumstances and to confirm if those on board the helicopter had survived, but before any detail could be issued publicly, it was vital that all immediate next of kin were informed of the tragic outcome.
‘As our communities will understand, this was a matter that needed to be handled sensitively and with dignity, with the families of the deceased being at the heart of our response, which involved other agencies.
‘Our thoughts today are with the families of those who have sadly died, with Leicester City Football Club, and with both football supporters and the wider local community who have all been impacted by the events of last night and the news that those on board the aircraft have not survived.’
An emotional Leicester City FC statement posted Sunday evening read: ‘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. None of the five people on-board survived.
‘The primary thoughts of everyone at the Club are with the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the families of all those on-board at this time of unspeakable loss.
‘In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led. Leicester City was a family under his leadership.
‘It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the Club that is now his legacy.
‘A book of condolence, which will be shared with the Srivaddhanaprabha family, will be opened at King Power Stadium from 8am on Tuesday for supporters wishing to pay their respects.
‘Supporters unable to visit King Power Stadium that wish to leave a message can do so through an online book of condolence, which will be made available via lcfc.com in due course.
‘Both Tuesday’s First Team fixture against Southampton in the EFL Cup and the Development Squad fixture against Feyenoord in the Premier League International Cup have been postponed.
‘Everyone at the Club has been truly touched by the remarkable response of the football family, whose thoughtful messages of support and solidarity have been deeply appreciated at this difficult time.’