Leicester City Fans Wait and Hope After Owner’s Chopper Crashes

Leicester City Fans Wait and Hope After Owner’s Chopper Crashes

LONDON — As concern grew on Sunday about the fate of the owner of the English Premier League soccer club Leicester City after his helicopter crashed Saturday night in a ball of flames, fans responded with an outpouring of dread and prayers.

Reuters and the British broadcaster Sky News reported on Sunday that the owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, had been on the chopper that took off from the field after a game against West Ham. One of his two daughters, Voramas Srivaddhanaprabha, two pilots and an unidentified fifth person were also said to have been on board.

But with no official statement forthcoming from Mr. Vichai’s family, the soccer club or the police, fans filled the void with hope and expressions of gratitude for the man and his family.

A Leicester City spokesman said on Twitter, “The Club will issue a more detailed statement once further information has been established.”

“Everybody waiting up to hear an update about a man we’ve either never met or met a few time, but adore and love,” Hayley Sanderson wrote on Twitter. “That’s the true meaning of football. Hearts breaking all over the city right now.”

“Absolutely devastating news about the #LCFC helicopter crash,” Neil Harris wrote on Twitter. “Aside from bankrolling the club for a decade, these guys have thrown millions at hospitals and local charities.”

Mr. Vichai, a Thai billionaire who founded the duty-free retail giant King Power International, has been cherished by fans ever since he bought the team in 2010 and turned it into a fairy tale story, capped with a Premier League title in 2016.

“You can’t put into words the love and respect for them in this city,” Mr. Harris said.

“I think most of us #LCFC fans are waking up waiting for the inevitable news,” wrote Kristopher Warder, who describes himself as a “massive #LCFC fan” on Twitter.

“He’s the man that allowed us to live the dream. There’s not an owner in the country that comes close to how connected with a city like he became,” he said.

Some fans were hopeful as they waited for information on what caused the accident.

“You pulled off the biggest footballing miracle,” Charlie Palethorpe, a 20-year-old student at the University of Brighton wrote in a tweet. “Praying for a miracle of your own now,” he added.

The Leicester City players Harry Maguire and Wilfred Ndidi shared prayer emojis on Twitter, as did the former team member Islam Slimani.

“Speechless,” wrote Ben Chilwell, a defender for Leicester City and the English national team.

Gary Lineker, one of England’s most celebrated former professional soccer players and host of the popular BBC program “Match of the Day,” began his career with Leicester City. He called the events “a terrible tragedy” and “heartbreaking.”

News of the helicopter crash was breaking as Mr. Lineker’s show began Saturday night. “That was the most difficult @BBCMOTD I’ve ever hosted,” he wrote on Twitter.

Leicester City tied the game, 1-1, on Saturday. But the team’s 2016 victory — the first title in Leicester’s 132-year history — had been unthinkable before Mr. Vichai bought the team for 39 million pounds, or about $50 million at current rates, in 2010, when it was still in the second tier. Four years later, Leicester was promoted to English soccer’s highest tier.

But even before the Premier League title, Leicester fans had become enamored of Mr. Vichai, who gave away beer, scarfs, pies, hot dogs and doughnuts at the stadium around his birthday.

Bloomberg reported that Mr. Vichai is worth $3.3 billion, having derived most of his wealth from the King Power Group, which he developed into Thailand’s biggest duty-free company. He also controls part of AirAsia, the region’s biggest discount carrier.

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