Remembering The Legacy Five Years On
Five years ago today, the Leicester City family was consumed by tragedy, the response to which transcended football and touched the hearts of communities around the world. On 27 October, 2018, shortly after a Premier League match against West Ham United, the Club lost its Chairman, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha; pilots Eric Swaffer and Izabela Lechowicz; and staff members Nusara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare in a helicopter accident outside King Power Stadium.
The days that followed were marked by an outpouring of grief, respect and love for the five lives lost, including a Chairman whose vision had transformed a Football Club, built pride and togetherness among our communities and redefined people’s belief in what is possible.
This Friday morning, a private ceremony was staged inside the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Garden, as Chief Executive Susan Whelan, Club Directors and representatives of our Men’s and Women’s teams gathered to pay their own tributes. They were there to honour the immense legacy bestowed upon the Club by our beloved late Chairman and to remember the lives of Eric, Izabela, Nusara and Kaveporn. It was an opportunity for the Leicester City family to once again come together and to reaffirm its commitment to a precious vision which guides the Club’s entire operation as we strive to build a future in which we can all take pride.
Led by Buddhist monks, such ceremonies have become a regular fixture at King Power Stadium and in Seagrave during the Srivaddhanaprabha family’s ownership of the Club. The Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Garden offers a calming, reflective space for all on the site where tragedy struck five years ago. Supporters are invited to visit the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Garden during daylight hours today, and any other day, to remember the people we tragically lost in October 2018.
Khun Vichai’s eight years as Chairman were characterised by immense kindness, commitment and ambition – cultivating a unique atmosphere at the Club which would lead to one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time. Following promotion to the Premier League in 2014, two years later, the Foxes were crowned as English champions in historic fashion. Defying unbelievable odds, Leicester City shocked the world to lift the iconic Premier League trophy, later also embarking on a magical run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Khun Vichai is remembered for his warmth and compassion as well as the footballing glory his vision helped to achieve. He pledged £4M in personal donations to help Leicester-based charities better the lives of local people. From children’s hospitals to local religious centres, he invested in causes which matter to the people of Leicester. Current Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha has since committed the Club to his father’s vision and his generosity of spirit lives on through the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation. In recent seasons, the Foxes lifted a first-ever FA Cup in 2021, also winning the Community Shield later that year and embarking on campaigns in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League.
The world-leading LCFC Training Ground is the embodiment of Khun Vichai’s legacy at Leicester City. Opened three years ago, it offers a magnificent, aspirational place of work for the Club’s Men’s and Academy operation. LCFC Women, meanwhile, joined Leicester City’s portfolio of teams in 2020, immediately winning promotion to the FA Women’s Super League – where the Foxes are showing exciting promise during their third consecutive campaign in the top tier.
Admired private jet and helicopter pilot Eric Swaffer possessed over 20 years of flying experience. After flying helicopters on the North Sea for approximately five years, he spent the next five years flying for charter and private owners, and another five years flying scheduled airlines, before working in private and business aviation. Eric lived in Camberley, Surrey, with his partner, Izabela Lechowicz. Izabela, Eric’s co-pilot on the night of 27 October, moved to the UK from Poland in 1997. She was the winner of the #polka100 award, an accolade awarded by the Polish embassy in London as one of 18 ‘exceptional women who inspire the Polish community in Britain’. The embassy described her as ‘a wonderful pilot’, who ‘created a positive image of Poland in the UK’.
Nusara Suknamai graduated with a BA (Hons) in Communication Arts from Bangkok University and an MA from the Faculty of Communication Arts (Tourism and Entertainment) from Krirk University, Bangkok. Nusara, a member of Khun Vichai’s staff, also worked in television for Channel 7 from 2006-2013. Kaveporn Punpare worked as one of the late Chairman’s personal assistants, and was affectionately known as ‘Golf’. He was from Bangkok and studied sports and wellness. He was married and had a three-year-old daughter at the time of the accident.
Today’s ceremony followed an emotional moment’s applause during Tuesday’s match against Sunderland at King Power Stadium as the people of Leicester paid a fitting tribute during the Club’s closest home fixture to the anniversary of 27 October, 2018. Khun Vichai, Kaveporn, Nusara, Eric and Izabela will never be forgotten at Leicester City Football Club. Always in our hearts.
The Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Memorial Garden will be open from 4pm today for anyone who wishes to pay their respects, ahead of tonight’s Lionesses fixture at King Power Stadium.