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Reflections - a year on

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Thought it would be good to have a topic for us to share our reflections and thoughts as we approach the anniversary of the helicopter crash.

 

 

An article appeared on BBC News this morning

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50138111

 

Leicester helicopter crash: A tragedy that stunned football - told by those who were there

By Simon Stone

BBC Sport

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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's helicopter taking off from the King Power Stadium
Saturday, 27 October 2018 - Leicester had just drawn 1-1 with West Ham

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's helicopter took off from the centre circle. It was a routine sight. Leicester City's 61-year-old Thai owner would often fly out from the pitch after home games.

Srivaddhanaprabha, known by fans as Vichai, had bought Leicester in 2010 for £39m when they were in the Championship. He helped clear the club's debts, and the Foxes returned to England's top flight four years later. They then beat odds of 5,000-1 to claim the Premier League title in 2015-16. It was one of sport's most remarkable success stories. 

On Saturday, 27 October 2018, Leicester played at home to West Ham. A 17:30 BST kick-off, the match finished in a 1-1 draw. At around 20:30, Vichai's helicopter took off. It crashed seconds later, coming down just outside the stadium. 

All five people on board were killed. 

This is the story of a tragedy that stunned football - told by four firefighters who were dispatched to the scene. 

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The memories are as clear as if it happened yesterday.

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service's white watch reported for duty at 19:00 BST.

The watch manager was running late as he had been to the King Power Stadium to see his beloved Leicester City play against West Ham. Wilfred Ndidi had scored late for the home side to secure a 1-1 draw. Attention had turned to a farewell presentation for a colleague about to leave the station. Routine jobs were being done. A briefing, a cup of tea, equipment checked. 

At around 20:30, the bells sounded. As with every incident received at the Central Fire and Rescue station on Lancaster Road, whoever is nearest the printer is the first to find out what the call is for, which fire engines will be attending and the personnel required.

"Because we are one mile from the stadium, we got mobilised. The bells were going, the blue lights flashing," said Dave Tennant.

"When it was announced what the incident was, we pretty much knew automatically who it was and what was involved," said Nick Lack. "A lot of the watch are great Leicester fans. The initial realisation of what had taken place was pretty impactful."

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Before Leicester's home match on 19 October, hundreds took part in a walk to the King Power Stadium in memory of the crash victims

Nearly everyone in Leicester knew how the club's owner left games. Tennant used to point the helicopter out to his three-year-old son from his house in Wigston, on the outskirts of the city, four miles away.

"It is vivid in my mind," he said. "I used to sit in the back garden with my son and say 'there is Leicester City flying'.

"Sometimes we are sent out to jobs and what you are initially told is happening doesn't turn out to be 100% accurate. We heard it was a helicopter crash but we had to treat it like any other job.

"That night, I was in charge of the second appliance. We were told there had been multiple calls, which is a good indication the reported incident has actually happened and that there were people on board the helicopter. 

"The King Power Stadium was the address we had. But the stadium itself is vast. As we approached, I clocked the smoke on the left-hand side. I remember the driver saying 'whereabouts, any idea?' I remember saying 'left, left, go left'. There were still people walking. The police were there."

The crews were on the scene within minutes of the helicopter crashing.

At that point, there was no thought of who was involved. This is when training takes over, as Joe Robinson recalls: "You just go into work mode. It was an obvious scene. There was fire to deal with. It was a helicopter. 

"It is hard to describe your feelings at that point. It is a cliche but it is something we get used to. People in other lines of work get used to certain things in their day and for us, it is not normal, but we learn to deal with it. 

"And we are there to save everybody - it doesn't matter whether it is the chairman of a football club or a homeless person. We are there to rescue someone or make the situation better. In the moment it is a helicopter crash with people on it. 

"The bigger picture came afterwards with all the media coverage. That is when it sinks in."

"I had friends who are Leicester fans, sending me messages asking me if I was there and if I could tell them anything," said Tennant. "There is nothing you can say until the names are released. The families need to hear information first from the right channels."

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(l-r): Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer were killed in the crash

As the situation changed and reinforcements arrived, control of the situation was handed over.

A sense of loss took over for Robinson. "We are here to make things better," he said. "When something isn't better… it doesn't feel like you have failed but when there is a loss of life, it is not far off.

"I am not a football fan, so the attachment to football is not there for me. I understood everything Vichai did for the city and the club and it is sad he is not with us any more. But we are very quick to think of one person and not the other four who were on board. They had families as well. 

"It is just a sad situation. We have been to incidents time and time again since. You can't carry that burden around with you. You just can't. There is not enough room for it."

Another member of the crew, Russ, was not working that night. He had been to the game though. And he could see the effect the event had on his mates when he returned for duty.

"You could visibly see it had been hard work; seeing it on the news all the time, the profile of it, the exposure to it all. It had stirred emotions in a lot of people. The member of our team who was supposed to be leaving that night came back for a little bit to spend time with the watch, because he needed to be around everyone else who had experienced the same thing.

"The service were very good at getting in touch and telling us there were things available if we wanted them. But there is nothing better than talking among yourselves."

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Fans left flowers in tribute to Vichai - who they affectionately referred to as 'The Boss'

The group decided to bring some kind of closure to their experience by doing the Leicester Half Marathon earlier this month.

Their plans had to be altered when the race was cancelled because of poor weather. With money pledged for the Vichai Foundation and the Firefighters Charity, Leicester City came to their aid by allowing them to run round the pitch - 63 times - to fulfil their promise.

"This time last year I was training for the London Marathon," said Tennant. 

"It is weird, but it is something that sticks in my mind. The training was horrible. I did some really long runs, really boring. This particular time, I finished late at night and I knew Leicester had been playing. I was catching my breath at the end of the run and the helicopter came over. You can see the lights, you know it is a helicopter and you think 'I know who that is'. 

"That was the last time I heard it. 

"I guess that is why it just feels personal. It was a completely different night."

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We have progressed really well. Top has handled everything so well, mainly holding out on Maguire for so long and not just quickly getting rid.

 

The 5 people that died on that day will never be forgotten, I'm glad they're all getting a proper memorial now, but as always everything moves on and there is so much positively around the club at the minute so let that continue.

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The years absolutely flown.

 

We’d only left Symphony Rooms in a taxi about 10 mins before the crash, getting a taxi back to Highcross where we then heard the news.

 

We’d had a class day on the lash with all the lads, and like everyone couldn’t believe it was happening. Everyone in the pub was talking about it. It was very sobering 
 

Waking up that Sunday was awful. Hoping against hope that it was some horrible dream, and then hoping for some positive news. 
 

Was down at the ground by 10am that morning with some flowers- I think we all knew didn’t we really? 
 

That week I must’ve gone down with various friends about 6 times, watching the floral and shirt tributes grow. It was the best way to draw any crumb of comfort from anything, particularly how clubs from across the world and in particular the country came together for us. 
 

Reading the original thread on here is also very very poignant. Both show the legacy  Vichai has left behind, and the admiration not just Leicester, but fans all across the country had for the bloke. 
 

On the pitch, we’re currently doing him proud I know.

 

Of course four other families lost members that tragic night, and they shall also never be forgotten.

 

Edited by The Year Of The Fox
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I’d just got back from the game when my mate messaged me to tell me the news.

 

I had never really understood grieving for someone people didn’t know personally up until that point. So sad for all of the families and especially seeing Top there with the empty seat next to him.

 

 

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I didn't actually go to the game that evening. One of the kids was poorly so we decided to skip it and watch on TV instead. I gave my tickets to one a friend who took his kids instead.

 

Watched the game on TV, saw Amartey's horror injury and remember thinking "that's bad for the kid". At the end of the game, switched TV off to commence kids bedtime routine.

 

Had just sat down on the bed whilst the kids were getting out of the bath when my phone buzzed - a message from my cousin - a United fan who often comes with my to Leicester/United games, but other than that I don't hear from her much - "Are you ok?" it said. Confused I looked around my bedroom and considered for a moment why she was asking me this! Then another message "just seen the news - let me know you're all ok". That was the moment when I realised something was wrong but didn't know what.

 

Flicked on the news and logged straight on to FT where the first few posts were being made - people having witnessed the crash. It was a shocking event.

 

A year on, I am so proud of the club and everyone connected with it for the way they handled the situation. Dignified, sincere and thoughtful but not overly mawkish. Everything they did was lovely and moving. The ceremony in the centre circle a couple of days later, the two minutes silence, the shirts of all clubs laid around the perimeter of the pitch, the lap of appreciation were perfect.

 

Top has continued the good work, the team is in a great place with a superb manager and bags of talent, the work on the new training ground continues apace. The memorial garden looks like it will be lovely too, but I think Vichai's biggest legacy is still to come when they finally unveil the plans to redevelop the stadium.

 

Thoughts are with the families of all those who died that night.

 

 

 

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I only just missed it happened as me and my dad wait for crowds to leave before going back to our car.

 

My wife phoned me just as we was setting back asking if we was ok as I didnt text her. She knows we can be around the stadium after full time for abit.

 

I had to miss the Burnley game as I was on my honeymoon....in Thailand! Ended up putting my old shirt from when king power took over at the temple where Vichai was and King power made us really welcome. Was offered food and drink and allowed to put the shirt in front of Vichai 💙 This was another moment where you realise how kind and generous things associated with him was :)

 

Was also on sky sports news with Rob Dorsett in a really surreal day!

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Whilst the events of 1 year ago will never be forgotten by us fans of LCFC, I will also be eternally grateful for the fact that Top was not on board that helicopter that evening.

 

1 year on, Top has handedly everything with a exceptional amount of professionalism, dignity and is doing a fine job of carrying on his father's good work, I'm sure he his looking down with immense pride.

 

LCFC is still in fantastic hands.

 

The images of the empty seat at every home game where the boss should be sat and the sadness in Tops eyes before most games when the cameras cut to him are a reminder of those events.

 

Also the players deserve huge credit for having to go to work with the shadow of it hanging over them each and every home game.

 

We should also never forget the 4 others and their families, I do hope the court case is dealt with quickly and effectively and hopefully out of the media spotlight, whatever the outcome as I'm not sure it does anyone any good when these things are played out in a public court.

 

I look forward to taking in the new memorial garden and saying a final good bye.

 

I lost my friend a fellow city supporter at 39 earlier this year. It will be nice to have a place to go and remember his life as well.

 

Stay strong LCFC family. 

 

When you're smiling.

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My son and I went for a meal after the game and were walking back to the car when we saw the helicopter crash right next to us and called the emergency services. It had a profound effect on both of us. RIP Vichai and thank you so much for everything you’ve done for the club I’ve loved since I was a child. Making the impossible possible. Remembered always. 

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Leicester City is my hobby, the hobby I go to when I’ve had a hard week and need cheering up. It’s the thing I go to when I need a break from work, family and everyday life for that moment of ecstasy to make it all feel good again. I don’t say I live for the weekend anymore but ask my wife and she’ll probably tell you weekends are far more pleasant when City have won. 

 

Vichai took my hobby and has done to it what I wish would happen for many years growing up. His investment built a championship winning team, a youth team that produces world class players and allowed us to implement a system that others admire. Yes, many others have player their part but none of what we have witnessed or are witnessing now would’ve happen if he and his son didn’t pick our football club. He made Football fun again! 

 

A year on. Honestly speaking has Vichai’s tragic death had a genuine effect on my every day life. With all honesty, probably not. We are two people who never met but joined by a connection to one thing. However, like everyone else here, not just with Football, with him, I share a less obvious connection - family. I’m well over the age of someone whose dad (Who I am still lucky to have) is probably not the centre of my life but is still only a phone call away. I don’t even want to think about not having that chance to speak to my father whenever I need that advice, pep talk or, more so, bollocking. 

 

On that night, a very young man in his early 30’s lost what I cherish so much. I can’t imagine what this year has been for him and his family. To lose your rock so suddenly and it such a manner is not easy. Today my thoughts are with Top, his mother and his other siblings. Your father would’ve been proud of how you’ve approached the last year and for what it’s worth, I admire you for it. 

 

Thank you Khun Vichai for building my football team. I wish the family all the best thoughts possible today and hope I carry my fathers legacy with the same dignity as Top. All the best all. 

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I miss his infectious smile :( , Vichai epitomised everything good about the game. He was the best chairman anyone could ask for. He did so much and he was a truly genuine soul. He wasn’t egotistical and his humility shone through. Top is really standing up to his fathers legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time, and also the other souls that lost their lives a year ago.

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He was a different type of owner to those you come to expect with a premier league club, you expect the owner to be this powerful figure who rarely walks amongst the fans, only ever seeing the owner in his seat. 

Yet Vichai was the opposite, frequently walking around the ground or shop amongst the fans, happily taking pictures or just having a conversation. 

 

A funny memory for me was the announcement of the new training complex. I was looking at the plans, hanging badly from the night before almost in a world of my own. I turned to walk out of the tent they'd set up and there's suddenly Vichai, Top and Susan Whelan present. Had you ignored his security guards, he looked like a normal fan, just talking with people about the plans. 

It's such an small memory for me, but it perfectly sums up what Vichai was. He was and always will be one of us.

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I remember going to the game with my Dad and leaving feeling very disillusioned with the performance and this was compounded by what was obviously a horror injury to Amartey. In the car on the way back from we had a conversation about Puel's future and what we thought was in store for the club for the rest of the season. Within this, we had both concluded that whatever happened we trusted Khun Vichai to make the right decisions to lead us forward. We pulled into the drive, got the notifications about the crash and everything came sharply into perspective.  

 

It was a desperately sad weekend but also comforting watching the tributes pour in and seeing that Vichai's actions had touched the entire footballing world and that he would be immortalised as phenomenal leader, genial character and compassionate man that he was.

 

A year on I don't feel exclusively sad about the crash, but immensely proud of what our club has achieved - on and off the pitch - since Vichai's tragic passing. I think Rodgers was spot on in saying he wanted the period over the Burnley and Southampton games to be a celebration of his life and within those games we demonstrated all of the values Vichai embodied and showed our club for what it is; a thriving, up and coming, family club. Vichai has helped picked this club up and put us on the right tracks and given the football club, the fans and the people of Leicester some fond, life-long memories. For me October 27th will always represent a day to never forgot that. Thank you again for everything Vichai and thoughts are with Top and the families of all 5 vicitims on what I'm sure is the most difficult of days for them.

 

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9 hours ago, Bayfox said:

Whilst the events of 1 year ago will never be forgotten by us fans of LCFC, I will also be eternally grateful for the fact that Top was not on board that helicopter that evening.

 

 

This is a small detail, but a very important one. I don't know if they used to travel in the chopper together regularly but if Top had been on board, not only would it have been a much greater tragedy for the family but who knows what the repercussions would have been for the club.

 

 

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