‘As a helicopter pilot myself, you can imagine how I felt, I was devastated’

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DAVID GOLD remembers all too well the last time West Ham met Leicester.

It was a day that ended in tragedy when the Foxes’ owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people died in a helicopter crash as they left the King Power after the sides’ 1-1 draw in October.

The last time Leicester played West Ham, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium
The last time Leicester played West Ham, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium
AP:Associated Press

Gold returned home and only learned the terrible news when he turned on his television.

And it struck a particular chord with the Hammers co-owner as he is a qualified helicopter pilot and regularly flies for business and West Ham duties.

But even though he was devastated by the news of Vichai’s death, Gold insists he cannot allow it to stop him flying.

Ironically, the experienced aviator switched to helicopters after crashing his Cessna plane at Birmingham’s training ground when he was their joint owner along with David Sullivan.

Today, Gold will meet with Vichai’s son, Top, who now runs the club, for the first time since the loss of his father.

Gold said: “I’ve not had any dealings with his son so far but I’ll no doubt be speaking to him at the game.

“And it will be uncomfortable because of what happened but life goes on and I’m sure the son will do a great job.

“He has big shoes to fill.”

As a helicopter pilot myself, you can imagine how I felt. I was devastated. He is sorely missed, both personally and in the football fraternity.


David Gold

Gold recalled his horror when news of the crash emerged.

He said: “I didn’t see anything until I’d got home. I turned on the sport, as I do after a game and it was all over the television.

“As a helicopter pilot myself, you can imagine how I felt — I was devastated. And for it to happen like that to such a nice man as well . . .

“I’ve always had the highest regard for him and the work he was doing at Leicester. It was more than just about the football club, to him, it was more about the community.

“That was always very nice to see. He is sorely missed, both personally and in the football fraternity.”

The 82-year-old was equally as stunned by the manner of the crash.

He added: “To have a catastrophic failure like that, it’s one in a million, it just doesn’t happen.

‘A RARE EVENT’

“It was so sad. You could argue that if it’d failed 30 seconds earlier, then he would’ve had a chance to survive.

“It was just in that terrible window between altitude and airspeed and, of course, it was all wrong. It ended in disaster.

“But I’ve still got my helicopter. I use it to go to the training ground from time to time and for business. Do you think about what happened? No. And if you did, you wouldn’t leave the house in the morning.

“Helicopters rarely come down. It’s a rare event and a rare situation.

“How often have you heard an airline pilot say, ‘The most dangerous part of my job is driving to the airport’?

“I’ve won the Malta Air Rally twice and I see it as an exciting part of my life.”

But Gold knows how easily it could have happened to him.

LUCKY ESCAPE

He and Sullivan had been due to fly from Stapleford Airport in Essex up to the North East for a Premier League match with Sunderland.

Gold recalled: “We were in the reception waiting for our plane. This particular company had two aircraft which were identical. We were on the second one, not the first.

“The first one took off and crashed, all on board were killed.

“We were on the second one and, of course, it was all abandoned but that was also a tragedy.”

Gold was also lucky to be alive after over-shooting his landing at Birmingham’s Wast Hills training ground in 2002 — and writing-off his light aircraft.

He later told Flying Today magazine that he did not realise the grass had just been cut and it was like landing on ball bearings.

Gold said all he suffered was “bruised pride” but that the incident could have been “disastrous” had he not turned off the fuel to avoid a possible fire on impact.


He added: “I had the accident. It was always a very tight landing at Birmingham in a light aircraft.

“One day, three things went wrong and I ran off at the end and wrote off the aircraft.

“I was shaken. But then I decided that helicopters were the way forward as they don’t need a runway.”

As an avid aviator, Gold has survived some near scares as a pilot but insists helicopter crashes are "rare"
As an avid aviator, Gold has survived some near scares as a pilot but insists helicopter crashes are “rare”
Getty Images – Getty
Vichai was not only desperate for his club to prosper but the whole city of Leicester too
Vichai was not only desperate for his club to prosper but the whole city of Leicester too
PA:Press Association

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