Dread, Then Grief, Engulfs Leicester After Owner’s Helicopter Crash

Dread, Then Grief, Engulfs Leicester After Owner’s Helicopter Crash

But the Leicestershire Police, working with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Fire and Rescue Service, could not confirm anything. Investigators were still on site, sifting through the wreckage, the scene hidden from view by a police cordon. Fans could only wait, and, despite themselves, hope.

Slowly, the carpet of flowers outside the stadium grew. Clutching freshly purchased bouquets, clasping scarves and jerseys, a steady stream of fans appeared: old and young, male and female, whole families holding one another for support.

Each laid their offering in a neat line on the ground. Next to Ganesha, a small statue of Buddha rested, a testament to Mr. Vichai’s faith: He had often invited Buddhist monks to come to Leicester to bless the team’s field. Votives adorned with Buddha’s image nestled among the jerseys — not just the royal blue of Leicester, but the rich red of Liverpool, the bright white of Leeds United, the sky blue of Manchester City.

By midday, the shrine had started to sprawl away from the wall and on to the concourse around the stadium. A crowd, somber and silent, stood in front of it. Few spoke. Some knelt, offering a prayer; others stood, tears brimming in their eyes, for a few minutes, before wandering away, their place taken immediately by another. Staff members quietly extended the barriers that surrounded the shrine, to create space for other tributes. Still, nobody knew, not for sure.

Few of those who had gathered outside the stadium had met Mr. Vichai; the vast majority would never have heard him speak. They would only be able to offer a broad-brush sketch of what he was like: the man they felt they knew, the man they did not want to acknowledge they were mourning.

Though the sight of his helicopter landing on the field after games suggested a showman’s streak, he had shown little appetite for publicity since purchasing Leicester in summer 2010, back when it was struggling in the second-tier Championship. He got it for a song, too, paying just 39 million pounds, or about $60 million at the time.

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