Tail rotor disconnection caused Leicester helicopter crash
6th December 2018

Leicester City owner’s helicopter crashed killing him and four others on board after the tail rotor became disconnected from pilot’s pedals causing an ‘uncontrollable’ spin

  • Leicester city owner, two staff and two pilots died in October stadium crash
  • Investigators have now found the aircraft’s tail rotor became disconnected
  • Pilots pedals no longer controlled it, sending the helicopter into a spin 

The helicopter crash which killed Leicester City’s owner and four others was caused by the tail rotor becoming disconnected from the pilot’s pedals, investigators have found.

Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his co-pilot partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz were all killed in the accident on October 27.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has now found the aircraft came crashing down when a system linking the pilot’s pedals with the tail rotor failed. 

The problem meant the Augusta AW169’s tail rotor blades ‘continually changed pitch until they reached the limit’ leading the helicopter into an ‘uncontrollable’ spin, the report found. 

Five people were killed in the crash shortly after the helicopter took off from Leicester’s King Power Stadium

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha perished alongside two staff and two pilots on October 27

Nusara Suknamai, left, a former beauty queen who worked for the billionaire, and Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s assistant Kaveporn Punpare also died

Izabela Lechowicz and boyfriend Eric Swaffer, pictured in the cockpit on a previous trip

The report states: ‘The initiating cause and exact sequence of the failure that resulted in the loss of tail rotor control is being investigated as a priority.

‘The AAIB is working with relevant organisations to identify any other factors that may have contributed to the loss of tail rotor control.’

The AAIB has already issued warnings to owners of similar helicopters to check their tail rotor mechanisms for any signs of similar problems. 

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The crash, following a football match in October, caused shock around the city, with fans later laying out a sea of flowers and shirts in tribute to the club’s late owner.

The report states: ‘The tail rotor system was first inspected at the crash site. This identified that the input lever mechanism was not attached to the control shaft.

‘The pin, spacers and one of the locating bearings were missing from the lever.

‘The locking nut and pin carrier were found loose in the tail rotor fairing and were bonded together (they should be separate components).

Diagrams from today’s report show the mechanism where the problem occurred

Investigation used the condition of this ‘duplex’ part to determine the cause of the crash

The helicopter burst into flames after crashing into a car park outside the stadium

Stadium staff and emergency services ran at the scene but were not able to gain access to the helicopter because of the intensity of the fire. 

One of those who tried to help but was held back by police was Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

A previous report found the aircraft reached an altitude of approximately 430ft before plummeting to the ground near Leicester City’s King Power Stadium. 

Last week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge comforted the grieving family of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha.

The prince got to know the Thai billionaire through his role as president of the Football Association and their shared love of polo. 

Fans left flowers, scarves and shirts outside the stadium in memory of the club’s owner

Footballers Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy with Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s son Aiyawatt


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