The Thai billionaire owner of English Premier League team Leicester City was among five people who died after his helicopter crashed and burst into flames shortly after taking off from the soccer field, the club said Sunday, the AP reports. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a 60-year-old entrepreneur who owns Thai duty-free retail giant King Power, bankrolled Leicester's improbable league title triumph in 2016. "The world has lost a great man," Leicester said in a statement. "A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led." Two members of Vichai's staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, also died along with pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
Vichai bought Leicester for $50 million in 2010 when it was in the second-tier Championship and funded the revival that peaked with the 5,000-1 outsiders producing one of the greatest upsets in sports by winning the title. "I always believed in the power of our spirit," Vichai said in 2016. "It drove us to reach the Premier League, it gave us the strength to stay in the Premier League, and now it has inspired us to win the Premier League." Vichai, who started with one shop and grew Thailand's massive King Power duty-free chain, was known for arriving and leaving the stadium in central England in his helicopter. After Saturday's game against West Ham, the helicopter took off from the field and cleared the stadium roof before plummeting to the ground in an adjacent carpark in a ball of flames. Authorities say it will take days to assess the accident. (A groom-to-be died on a bachelor party cruise.)