Sunday 22 September 2019

Investigators probing Leicester helicopter crash claim aircraft ‘did not respond to pilot commands’

Supporters paid tribute at Leicester’s ground following the tragedy. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Supporters paid tribute at Leicester’s ground following the tragedy. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Neil Lancefield

Investigators are yet to determine why a helicopter involved in a crash which killed the owner of Leicester City lost control.

Before the AW169 helicopter spun out of control it turned right, despite the pilot's left pedal command, according to a preliminary report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The AAIB stated that the "cause of the apparent loss of yaw control has yet to be determined" but revealed that "investigation of the tail rotor system is being carried out as a priority".

Footage of the incident appears to show that sections of the tail rotor may have fallen off in mid-air.

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.

Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz - who was also a professional pilot - were all killed in the accident on October 27.

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.

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.

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