Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others were killed this weekend in the first-ever Leonardo Helicopters AW169 accident. The 2016 medium-twin helicopter, G-VSKP, S/N 69018, crashed Saturday night shortly after it lifted off from the center field pitch of King Power Stadium in Leicester City, UK. Eyewitness reports said the helicopter struggled to gain altitude to clear the stadium and then spiraled down rapidly into an adjacent parking lot, where it was consumed by a post-crash fire.
Investigators from the UK’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) said this morning that they have recovered the aircraft’s digital flight recorder (voice and data), “which was subject to intense heat as a result of the post-accident fire” and have taken it to the AAIB laboratory in Farnborough for analysis. The AAIB said it expects to complete its scene work this week.
In a statement issued yesterday, Leonardo expressed condolences and said it was “ready to support the AAIB with their investigation to determine the cause of this accident.”
The crash occurred shortly after 8:30 p.m local time, 40 minutes after the English Premier League soccer game between Leicester City and West Ham United ended. Srivaddhanaprabha, who made his $5 billion fortune establishing the chain of King Power duty-free shops in Thailand, bought the Leicester team in 2010 and regularly commuted to the stadium from Berkshire via helicopter.
More than 50 AW169s have been delivered and approximately 150 have been ordered. At this point, the fleet is not grounded. Air ambulance AW169s are currently in service in the UK, Norway, and Asia.