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Memorial Garden Opens One Year on from Leicester City Helicopter Crash

Published on November 6th 2019
A group of lawn chairs sitting on top of a grass covered field
On 27 October 2018, the helicopter carrying Vichai Srivaddhanapraba, chairman of Leicester City Football Club, crashed shortly after taking off. The accident also claimed the life of staff members Kaveporn Punpare and Nusara Suknamai; and pilots Eric Swaffer and Izabela Lechowicz.
On the site of the tragedy, a peaceful garden has been created.
Everything that has been planted in the garden is in soil made from composting the hundreds of bouquets placed outside the stadium after the crash.
It was opened on the first anniversary of the crash, and is named after the club's chairman.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha et al. posing for a photo in front of a television
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The design is based on the garden Khun Vichai had at his home on the outskirts of London.
The garden took more than three weeks to build and consists of sections of grass and stone in organic shapes. Dotted around the garden are plaques paying tribute to the five people who lost their lives. Inside the garden, there is an elephant, a fox and a horse made out of plants, as well as a brass version of Vichai's dog and a water feature.
A close up of a garden
Robert Ling was the manager of the team which built and put together the garden. He said: "It was great to be a part of the team who created this. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially because of what it means to everyone. It was a team effort to create it and get it done on a tight deadline of just a few weeks.”
The Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Memorial Garden at King Power Stadium officially opened on Sunday 27th October 2019. At noon, there was a private, multi-faith ceremony at the garden, attended by players and members of the victims' families. Chairman Khun Aiyawatt and the Srivaddhanaprabha family took part in anniversary proceedings in Thailand. The ceremony in Leicester began with a chanting ceremony led by Buddhist monks, followed by readings and reflections from the city’s leaders of the Christian, Islamic, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish faiths.
A sign in front of a flower
The garden was then opened to the public.
Guests were invited into the garden, where a tribute well had been built around the helicopter’s landing place. Visitors were encouraged to add small parcels of hand-written tributes – left in their thousands by supporters in the days following the accident – into the tribute well, which was then permanently sealed.
In the coming weeks, an outdoor interactive digital display will be installed in the garden, where supporters will be able to see every one of those hand-written tributes, which have been individually scanned. Those messages of tribute will become a permanent fixture.
A store in a brick building
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy said: "We want to carry on that legacy that Khun Vichai wanted. This is his garden, we want to be here paying respects - not just Leicester fans but opposition fans, and hopefully it will tell you what type of person he was.”
Samantha Green, from Leicester, and who has followed Leicester City since 1974, said: "They have done a beautiful job. It's so peaceful, for a peaceful man...I like the fact that there are animals. They've really thought it through.”
Dave Muddimer, a season ticket holder from Huncote, said: "It's outstanding...I see something of beauty.” Another fan, Lee Larrad, added: "It's lovely and very peaceful. There are some really nice touches. The fox and the dog are great. I didn't know what to expect. It just feels right and it feels respectful. It's really calming. We can come in and sit down and take it all in." Fan Joseph Birch noted that: "Some of the things included are things that meant a lot to him (Vichai). The eight water features on the fountain are to do with his beliefs....It's still a sombre atmosphere. There are tears in some people's eyes, but we are still smiling.”
A path with trees on the side of a fence
Leicester City CEO Susan Whelan said: “As well as being a tribute to all the lives lost that night, the memorial garden will serve as a reminder of what Khun Vichai did for Leicester City – what has been achieved under his leadership has been incredible.”
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha arrived at the club in 2010 and almost immediately cleared debts thought to be around £100million. Six years later, they won the Premier League title.
A close up of a bridge
Whelan continued: “We felt that a memorial garden, and the symbolism associated with the cycle of life and growth in a garden, would be an appropriate tribute... A sculpture of his favourite dog, Hero, has been placed beside a bench, facing the stadium. The water and fountain features are significant symbols in Thai culture, and we felt that to add a topiary elephant to represent Khun Vichai's love of Thailand, a horse for his love of polo and horse racing, and of course a fox for his most beloved Leicester City, would have brought a smile to his eyes...We have planted four cherry trees and placed a plaque in the garden in honour of Eric, Izabela, Kaveporn and Nusara.”
The garden, in the shadow of King Power Stadium, is open to the public during daylight hours.