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Bishop, clergy offer prayers and tributes following Leicester City helicopter tragedy

“The people of Leicester and all those affected by last weekend’s tragic fatal helicopter crash outside Leicester City’s King Power Stadium are in my prayers”, the Bishop of Nottingham has said.

The helicopter crashed just metres from the stadium on Saturday, 27th October shortly after Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United. Five people died in the crash, including the club’s billionaire Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

The four other victims were Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, members of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, and pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a pilot.

The Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, expressed his sorrow at the tragedy. Recalling the joyous celebrations around the city in 2016, when the club defied the odds and were crowned Premier League Champions, he noted that those feelings were far from the current mood in the city.

“Leicester lies within the Diocese of Nottingham, and in 2016 I was delighted to share in the joy of its people that their football team were the Premiership Champions. Now I wish, in the name of Catholics from all over the East Midlands, to express my sorrow at the tragic death of Leicester City’s Chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and the four other victims of the helicopter crash just outside of the stadium,” Bishop McKinney told The Catholic Universe.

The bishop said his “prayers and condolences go out to the families and friends of those who died; and also to the manager and team, club staff, fans, and to all of the people of Leicester who have been affected.

“I promise to hold you all in my prayer,” he said, adding: “I ask God’s eternal love and peace upon all who have died.”

Fr John Daley, parish priest of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Leicester, paid tribute to Mr Swaffer, noting that witnesses said he was a hero for guiding the spinning helicopter away from crowds on the ground.

“It seems he guided the helicopter to safe ground before the crash. He is being spoken of as saving lives,” Fr Daley told The Catholic Universe.

Mgr Vladimir Felzmann, Westminster Diocesan Chaplain for Sport and CEO for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport (JP2F4S), paid tribute to Mr Srivaddhanaprabham, who he described as “a wonderful human being”.

“Throughout his life, in sport and in the way he faced life, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was – as his Leicester 2015/16 squad – top of humanity’s Premier League,” Mgr Felzmann told The Catholic Universe.

“He showed that it is possible to be a wonderful human being and a professional success. “Leicester, the UK and the whole of our Global City is poorer by the loss of this inspirational human being,” Mgr Felzmann added.

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Picture: Supporters pay tribute at Leicester City Football Club. Leicester 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. (Mike Egerton/PA).