Leicester helicopter ‘did not respond to pilot’s command’ before plummeting to the ground and killing five in fireball crash as investigators focus on tail rotor issue
- Helicopter belonging to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha crashed on October 27
- Duty free billionaire died after match along with two staff and his two pilots
- Investigators’ preliminary report reveals it plunged 430ft in just a few seconds
- But Air Accidents Investigation Branch are still not sure why it happened
- Witnesses reported hearing a ‘grinding noise’ and then AgustaWestland fell
The helicopter that crashed and killed the owner of Leicester City plunged into the ground from 430ft but investigators are yet to determine why, it was revealed today.
Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his co-pilot partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, were all killed in the accident on October 27.
Footage of the aircraft taking off from the King Power Stadium pitch appeared to show parts of the rear rotor flying off as it hovered above the stands.
But the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) says it still has not identified the cause of the crash, although it appears the helicopter turned sharply right when the pilot was using the left pedal and ‘did not respond to his command’.
The AAIB’s preliminary report, released today, also says that its ‘investigation of the tail rotor system is being carried out as a priority’.
Investigators have said are yet to determine the cause of the Leicester helicopter crash
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha perished alongside two staff and two pilots on October 27
The doomed Leicester City helicopter pilot may have been become stuck in a ‘dead man’s curve’ after the aircraft’s tail rotor failed, experts have said
Before the AW169 helicopter spun out of control it turned right, despite the pilot’s left pedal command, the report says.
The AAIB stated that the ’cause of the apparent loss of yaw control has yet to be determined’.
Footage of the incident appears to show that sections of the tail rotor may have fallen off in mid-air.
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The aircraft reached an altitude of approximately 430ft before plummeting to the ground near Leicester City’s King Power Stadium, the AAIB said.
It was ‘rapidly engulfed in an intense post-impact fire’ and all five people on board were killed.
Following the crash, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered that safety checks should be carried out on the tail rotors of AW169 helicopters and similar models.
Kaveporn Punpare was an assistant to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and sadly perished in the doomed flight, alongside his colleague Nusara Suknamai, right, a former beauty queen who worked for the billionaire
Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer pictured in the cockpit on a previous trip, and right on Saturday landing on the pitch before their crash minutes later, were heading for Luton Airport when they crashed
The scorched wreckage of the AW169 AgustaWestland before it was removed when investigators located the black box
The first flight of the day for the helicopter involved in the crash was from Fairoaks Airport in Surrey, with one pilot and one passenger.
Three additional passengers boarded at London Heliport in Battersea, south London, before the helicopter flew to Leicester City’s Belvoir Drive training ground in Leicester, where it was shut down.
All five occupants went to the stadium, where Leicester were playing West Ham United in a Premier League fixture.
The pilot and a passenger returned to the training ground to make the short flight to land on the centre circle of the stadium’s pitch.
Soon after taking off 50 minutes later, at 8.37pm, the helicopter crashed.
Witnesses said the pilots prevented greater loss of life by steering the doomed craft away from crowds of football fans.
And two policeman were hailed for their bravery in trying to rescue survivors before the helicopter exploded.
All five on board died in the crash including Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, his two pilots and two associates.
The helicopter spiralled out of control moments after it took off from the pitch following a Premier League match at Leicester’s King Power Stadium between Vichai’s club and West Ham.
Instead of crashing into the stands and hospitality areas it came down on empty land 200 yards from the stadium before erupting in a fireball.
It avoided busy roads and the last of the 31,000 fans still in the area along with dozens of police officers.
Experts suspect the 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.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter was flown by Eric Swaffer, 53, who has posted pictures of the craft on social media.
His partner was flight instructor Izabela Lechowicz, 46, who was also on board.
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