Vichai helicopter tragedy will haunt me forever, says Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel

Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (C-L) and Wes Morgan attend the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club in Bangkok,Thailand, November 5, 2018.
PHOTO: Reuters

LONDON - Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel says the helicopter crash that killed the club's revered Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha will haunt him forever after he witnessed the tragedy.

The 32-year-old Danish international - speaking after Leicester had beaten Cardiff on Saturday(Nov 3) in their first match since the crash, which also killed four others - waved the helicopter off following the 1-1 draw with West Ham on October 27.

Moments later it came down, with Schmeichel reported to have been stopped by police as he ran towards the burning wreckage.

"I was on the pitch and I waved him off," said Schmeichel, before he flew with teammates and coaching staff to Bangkok to attend Vichai's funeral.

Leicester team attends owner Vichai's funeral in Bangkok

  • Leicester City's manager Claude Puel (L) and goal keeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) attend the funeral ceremony for Leicester City's Thai owner and duty-free mogul, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at Wat Thepsirin Buddhist temple in Bangkok.
  • Leicester footballers yesterday attended the funeral in Bangkok of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a fiery helicopter crash at their home King Power Stadium last Saturday.
  • Leicester footballers yesterday attended the funeral in Bangkok of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a fiery helicopter crash at their home King Power Stadium last Saturday.
  • They will go back to England around the middle of this week to prepare for a game with Burnley – their first home game after Vichai’s passing.
  • They left England for Bangkok after an emotional 1-0 win over Cardiff in their first game after the crash that killed two others passengers and two pilots.
  • The footballers were seen walking to a sala inside Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple in Bangkok where the royally sponsored funeral was held.
  • Vichai’s body was flown home on a private jet on Friday and the funeral rites were conducted at the temple while the Abhidhamma Recitation Ceremony will be held every night from yesterday until Friday, three of the nights being royally sponsored. The royally sponsored cremation rites will be confirmed at a later date.
  • During the pre-match warm-up, Leicester players wore T-shirts with an image of Vichai’s face and the words “The Boss”.
  • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and coaching staff during a minutes silence as part of remembrance commemorations and in memory of Leicester CIty's Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
  • Players from both sides line up to observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Leicester City helicopter crash which killed Leicester City Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, before the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in London on November 4, 2018.
  • Leicester players and backroom staff lined up around the centre circle for a minute’s silence with the Cardiff team after the laying of wreaths, while fans of both teams unfurled their banners.
  • The Leicester City footballers travelled to Bangkok after Saturday’s game to attend Vichai’s funeral. Dane Schmeichel said: “Everyone grieves in different ways and the opportunity was given [to go for the funeral] and we wanted to go. We are a family and wanted to pay our last respects together."
  • “It was nice to get a win to take to Thailand now and hopefully we did his family proud,” Schmeichel added. “You couldn’t ask for a better chairman. There are few people who come along in this life that have an impact on you. He had that on me and so many people, and the outpouring of grief around the world shows that,” he said, according to the BBC.

"I saw it all happen. It is something that will stay with me, unfortunately. It's not a nice memory but I've had all the support that I need.

"The club has been great and everybody has received the support that they needed." Schmeichel joined Leicester in 2011, a year after Vichai bought the club, and was a pivotal figure in their fairytale Premier League title win in 2016.

He admitted to shaking as he warmed up in Cardiff before the game on Saturday.

The goalkeeper, who had the Thai national flag on his gloves, then joined his teammates and backroom staff around the centre circle to pay tribute to Vichai and the other victims.

"It was tough," said Schmeichel, who had grief counselling during the week. "But we wanted to do it for the chairman and his family. We wanted to be together about this, because we've all lost what feels like a family member.

"Wes (Morgan the captain) said a bit, I said a bit. People had a lot to say because he meant so much to so many people. Everyone wanted to chip in.

"He brought everybody here and none of this - the memories, this family he's built, the culture he's instilled - would be here without him."

Schmeichel, who faces another emotion-packed game this Saturday when Leicester play their first home match since the tragedy against Burnley, said Vichai transcended the traditional image of a Premier League club owner.

Thai billionaire Vichai's family visits Leicester crash site

  • Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, son of Leicester City's owner Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, clasps his hands together as he stands infront of Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel amongst tributes left for Vichai and four other people who died when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed as it left the ground after the match on Saturday, in Leicester, Britain, October 29, 2018.
  • The family of the late Thai billionaire boss of Premier League club Leicester City paid tribute to him on Monday at the site where his helicopter crashed as investigators began examining the aircraft's black box.
  • Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) and Aimon Srivaddhanaprabha, the son and wife of Leicester City's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a helicopter crash at the club's stadium, look at the floral tributes left to the victims of the crash.
  • Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son and widow were seen laying a wreath among a sea of tributes from fans outside the stadium, including flowers, football scarves and Buddhist statues.
  • Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, known as "Top", is chief executive of his father's duty-free empire King Power and also vice-chairman of the football club Vichai bought in 2010.
  • Along with other family members and executives from King Power, the two were also seen laying wreaths at the crash site in a car park near the stadium, which is still cordoned off as air accident investigators pick through the wreckage.
  • Five people died in Saturday's crash, including also two members of Vichai's staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and the pilot's girlfriend, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a pilot.
  • Nursara Suknamai was an actress and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.
  • The reins of King Power Group's multi-billion-baht business empire is now in the hands of 32-year-old Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.
  • With his father gone, Aiyawatt has to take over as the CEO of King Power Group as well as chairman of the English Premier League football club Leicester City.
  • However, it remains unclear if Aiyawatt has his father's mettle, especially in terms of having a formidable wheeler-dealer attitude, even though he has been groomed over the past several years for these new challenges.
  • Fans laid down hundreds of football scarves, shirts and flowers outside Leicester City's stadium on Sunday, a day after the club's Thai billionaire owner died in a helicopter crash just outside the ground.
  • Fans streamed to the stadium to express their gratitude long before official confirmation that the 60-year-old businessman, who frequently flies to and from Leicester's home games by helicopter, was aboard the aircraft.
  • Four other people on the helicopter, including two members of Vichai's staff, were also killed in the crash.
  • Residents remembered a determined and charismatic figure who was the driving force behind a footballing feat when the club rose through the ranks to win the top spot two years ago.
  • Many also remembered the owner's generosity to fans -- free breakfasts at away matches and free beers on his birthday -- as well as to the city, including a donation to the local hospital.
  • Vichai also brought Thailand greater recognition in the international sporting world, developing the Southeast Asian country's football scene.
  • Kanti Patel, one of the first supporters to come to pay tribute in the early hours of Sunday, told AFP: "It means a lot to me, he did a lot for the club. "I can't get over it. Since him being with the club the club has done well, and I don't know what's going to happen now."
  • Another fan, Nathavut Sirimontaporn, said Vichai had brought "benefits" to Thai football. "I think having him as an owner of the Leicester City made people know Thailand more," he said.
  • A man kneels with a statue of the Buddha and devotional scripture in front of the floral tributes gathered outside Leicester City Football Club's King Power Stadium in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018
  • Pedestrians walk past a mural showing Leicester City Football Club's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha near De Montfort University in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018.

"When he took over this club it was in a pretty precarious situation, and to build what he has is quite amazing," he said.

"It's one thing building a team and a club that can perform on the pitch but we're more proud of the family that he's created and the feeling he's instilled in everybody being welcome.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what kind of position you have at the club. Whether it be player, staff, stadium staff, security - whatever it may be - everyone is equal and part of the family."