The pilot of the helicopter that crashed outside Leicester City’s stadium, killing five people including the club owner said “I've no idea what's going on” as it turned out of control.
An official report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed that Eric Swaffer, 53, made the comment seconds before the helicopter hit the ground outside the King Power Stadium on 27 October, 2018.
The AAIB inquiry found that the control system on the Leonardo AW169 helicopter failed because a bearing in the tail rotor broke up due to its ceramic balls sliding rather than rolling, due to a build-up of pressure.
The pilot’s pedals became disconnected from the tail rotor, investigators found, resulting in the aircraft making a sharp right turn which was “impossible” to control.
The AAIB described this as “a catastrophic failure”, causing the helicopter to spin quickly, approximately five times.
As the helicopter was turning out of control, a shout of: “Hey, hey, hey!” came from the rear cabin, the AAIB said.
Swaffer, who was a highly experienced pilot, responded by saying: “I’ve no idea what’s going on” and “uttered an exclamation”, according to the report.
He “performed the most appropriate actions” which included raising a lever to reduce the helicopter’s pitch angle and “cushion the impact”, the AAIB said.
The aircraft landed on a concrete step, coming to a rest on its left side.
Four of the five occupants survived the initial impact, but no-one survived due to the helicopter catching fire within a minute following a major fuel leak.
Here is what we know about the five victims in the Leicester City helicopter crash…
Billionaire businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 60, was born in Thailand in 1958 and was the owner of Leicester City FC.
He purchased the club in for £39m in 2010 and became the chairman in February 2011.
Srivaddhanaprabha was held in high regard by fans after he cleared the club’s debts and under his ownership the club rose out of the Championship and eventually won the Premier League for the first time in its history in 2015-16, defying odds of 5,000-1.
He was also praised for his charity work, donating £2m towards a new children’s hospital.
Ranked the fifth richest person in Thailand by Forbes Magazine in 2018, he amassed a fortune of nearly £4bn from his King Power range of duty-free shops.
Srivaddhanaprabha was known for arriving and leaving Leeicester’s stadium in his helicopter at home games.
He was married to Aimon and the couple have four children – Voramas, Apichet, Arunroong and Aiyawatt.
Eric Swaffer, 53, was the pilot of the helicopter and had over 20 years of flying experience – both as a helicopter and private jet pilot.
He worked for six years at easyJet before becoming a contract pilot and flew helicopters for Virgin Radio traffic reports.
Swaffer attended Brighton College rom 1979 to 1983 and “fell in love with flying” after visiting a Royal Navy ship flight deck as a child.
Richard Cairns, the head teacher of Brighton College, described Swaffer as “kind and popular”.
Swaffer lived with his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz – who also died in the crash – in Camberley, Surrey.
Izabela Roza Lechowicz
Professional pilot Izabela Roza Lechowicz, 46, moved to the UK from Poland in 1997 after graduating from a food technology course in Wroclaw.
She began training in 2003 and won the #polka100 award, a prize for "exceptional women who inspire the Polish community in Britain".
After meeting future partner Swaffer she quickly developed a love for flying after he took her out with him on flights.
She told the Polish Embassy website: “From the first touch of the controls, I knew that this was it.
“I knew this is something I want to do from the moment I touched the controls for the first time.”
She was working as a freelance pilot at the time of the crash.
Passenger Nusara Suknamai, 33, was a member of the chairman’s staff and would frequently post pictures of herself with Leicester City players on Instagram.
Suknamai, from Bangkok, was a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.
The performance saw her crowned Miss Intercontinental Thailand and Miss Photogenic.
Kaveporn Punpare was a member of Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff.
The 33-year-old, from Bangkok, Thailand, was one of the chairman’s personal assistants.
Punpare was the final victim to be formally identified by the coroner following the crash.