Thailand riveted by news of helicopter crash at Leicester City FC

Smoke rising from the wreckage of a helicopter belonging to Leicester City Football Club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after it crashed, on Oct 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Thais were riveted by the news of the helicopter crash at Leicester City Football Club in England on Sunday (Oct 28) morning, as the football fraternity fretted online about the condition of its owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha amid conflicting information about who was on board the aircraft.

Reporters who turned up at King Power's office in downtown Bangkok were told that there would be press conference.

As at press time, it had not taken place.

The press instead zeroed in on another football baron, Mr Newin Chidchob, who owns local league champion Buriram United football club and was at the Pullman Bangkok King Power hotel next door. The motorcycle enthusiast looked grim as he left the hotel with his entourage of superbikes.

Contacted by The Straits Times on Sunday evening, Mr Newin said he could not talk as he was in a meeting.

Mr Newin, who has built a football and motorsports empire in Buriram province, is a key figure in the Bhumjaithai political party.

On Sunday night, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who said he had just spoken to Mr Newin, told veteran journalist Suthichai Yoon via a Facebook Live interview: "We just lost someone who made big contributions to the public. I am sure his legacy will live on."

Mr Anutin, who has known Mr Vichai for more than 10 years, considered Mr Vichai a "big brother".

"He is a self-made man, worked hard and loved friends dearly," he said. "I told him that I loved riding horses and the next day a nice horse was sent to me... That's the way he was."

Meanwhile, businesswoman Nualphan Lamsam, who chairs local Port Football Club and manages Thailand's national women's football team, posted on her Instagram account: "Pang and family, together with all the players in Thailand's women's football team, send our thoughts and prayers to Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his family". Pang is her nickname.

At a football game in central Bangkok, Leicester City fan Apichart Jitratkavee said to AFP of Mr Vichai: "He is an important person who has raised the bar of Thai football further."

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