The death of Leicester City FC chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in Saturday’s tragic helicopter crash has hit the club’s Melton-based supporters hard.
One of them, Jonny McGrady, has fond memories of meeting the much-loved Thai billionaire while on holiday in Italy earlier this year.
He bumped into Mr Srivaddhanaprabha and his son Aiyawatt, the club’s vice-chairman who is affectionately known as Top, in Venice, and they chatted about their mutual love for a club which miraculously won the Premier League title in 2016 beating odds of 5,000-1.
Jonny, a freelance photographer in Melton, said: “They were so accommodating - they were just on a walking tour like anyone else and I instantly recognised them and had to grab a photo.
“They asked about where I was from and Vichai even laughed at my Jamie Vardy phone case.
“They both shook my hand and carried on with their tour.
“Even though we only spoke for about five minutes, you could tell how friendly and approachable they were.”
Jonny added: “His death is devastating for the club and the whole county.
“Vichai has turned the club around and put so much in to the club with so much passion and drive.
“He gave every Leicester fan hope and he made the impossible dream come true.”
Jonny visited the King Power Stadium yesterday (Sunday) and was moved by the growing collection of sympathy cards and flowers and the scarves and shirts left by supporters from many other football clubs.
Police say formal identification has not yet taken place at the crash scene, in a car park next to the stadium, but that the five victims are believed to be Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of his staff, Nusara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and co-pilot Izabela Roza Lechowicz.
“It’s hard, almost strange, grieving for someone you didn’t really know,” Jonny added.
“But when someone makes that much of an impact and puts so much effort and dedication in to something you love, you feel like you’ve lost a friend.”
Melton Council has opened a book of condolence at its Parkside offices for those wishing to pay their respects to the victims of Saturday’s helicopter crash.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Joe Orson said: “We are extremely saddened by the news of the weekend and send our deepest condolences to the families of everyone involved.
“We are all shocked and horrified by what happened, our sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families and friends of the victims and the Leicester City Football Club community and our thanks go to members of the emergency services for their swift and professional response.”
The book is available for entries during council office opening hours for people to share their memories, thoughts and pay their respects before being given to football club.
The exterior lights of the Parkside will also be turned blue for one week in tribute to those involved.
Do you have fond memories of meeting Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha? If so, email your tribute to firstname.lastname@example.org