Leicester City pilot hailed as a hero for steering stricken helicopter away from stadium

It was a heartbreakingly happy Facebook post.Early Saturday evening, British pilot Eric Swaffer poste...

Posted: Oct 29, 2018 9:47 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2018 9:47 PM

It was a heartbreakingly happy Facebook post.

Early Saturday evening, British pilot Eric Swaffer posted a picture of his smiling girlfriend and regular co-pilot, Polish-born Izabela Lechowicz at a VIP entrance to the King Power stadium, in Leicester, England.

Accident investigations

Accidents

Accidents, disasters and safety

Aircraft

Aviation and aerospace industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Helicopters

Heroes and heroism

Investigations

Safety issues and practices

Society

Football (Soccer)

Leicester City FC

Premier League

Sports and recreation

Sports organizations and teams

A few hours later Swaffer and Lechowicz died with three others, including Leicester City club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, when the helicopter Swaffer was piloting plunged to the ground outside the stadium.

Investigators are yet to establish the cause of the accident which sent the helicopter spiraling 200 feet to the ground just after it flew over the top of the 32,000-seat stadium.

But Swaffer, who I've known for 15 years, is being described as a hero for saving potentially hundreds of lives by steering the stricken helicopter away from crowds still in the process of leaving Saturday night's match against West Ham.

Leicester Police said no-one else had been injured on the ground and that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was leading the investigation into the accident.

The shocking incident has become a tragic moment in footballing history and fans have laid thousands of flowers outside the stadium near the crash site.

READ: Fans mourn a 'great human being'

READ: Tributes pour in for owner after helicopter crash

READ: Boys rescued from Thai cave welcomed by Man Utd

Swaffer's heroism in the final seconds of the disaster made front page headlines Monday.

Sky Sports cameraman Dan Cox told The Sun newspaper in London that he looked up to see the helicopter spinning and out of control.

"I don't know how he did it but he seemed to manage to slow down the spinning rotation and it drifted off into the corner part of the car park," Cox said.

That Swaffer may have saved lives by steering the helicopter away from crowds doesn't surprise those who knew the veteran pilot.

He was highly-skilled in flying multiple aircraft from private jets to helicopters and commercial craft. He also taught others how to cope in emergency situations.

Captain Sanjay Menzies, a close friend and chief pilot for The Poonawalla Group, a vaccine manufacturing company based in India, worked with Swaffer in 2013.

Swaffer had been recruited to instruct Menzies how to fly the company's new jet, a Gulfstream G550.

"I flew with Eric for four months exclusively and learned just about everything about the airplane from him," he told CNN. "He was the most knowledgeable and versatile pilot I have ever known. He was a walking encyclopedia of aviation knowledge and one of the funniest guys I have ever had the pleasure of meeting."

Menzies revealed Swaffer used to donate a great deal of money to worthy causes, including one year's salary to a charity in India.

Swaffer had to take regular tests and exams to keep flying the various aircraft he was regularly hired to fly.

After the crash but before he was confirmed to have been on board, Swaffer's friends and family flooded his Facebook page with desperate messages, hoping the couple had simply been attending the game as fans or guests.

However, previously posted pictures of Lechowicz with the same helicopter over the last year, taken by Swaffer, indicated that the worst was likely to have happened.

Their last doomed flight followed thousands that had come before, including flights for private clients to Greece, Thailand and Vienna in the last year alone.

Swaffer was hugely proud of his partner for her accomplishments in the male-dominated world of flying.

In a message from Swaffer about his life flying the world with Izabela he'd written to me: "It's almost like a permanent holiday sometimes!"

That Swaffer's skills in his final moments may have saved others will be his greatest legacy -- as much as his unique working partnership with his girlfriend.

Menzies told CNN Swaffer's connection and daily life with Lechowicz was "very rare."

"Izabela was his soul mate in more ways than one can count," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312521

Reported Deaths: 5498
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion42641849
Lake27152455
Allen18010298
Elkhart17177221
St. Joseph16799229
Hamilton13011167
Vanderburgh9751120
Tippecanoe858727
Porter827986
Johnson6389165
Hendricks6098157
Vigo608384
Monroe536750
Clark515077
Madison5060122
Delaware4905103
LaPorte465595
Kosciusko462339
Howard344277
Warrick325672
Bartholomew316863
Floyd316277
Wayne307770
Cass299931
Marshall299144
Grant272550
Noble255046
Hancock253852
Henry247537
Boone244554
Dubois237931
Dearborn219030
Jackson215534
Morgan210843
Knox187819
Gibson186925
Shelby182155
Clinton180321
DeKalb177831
Lawrence177648
Adams168222
Miami162614
Wabash162521
Daviess156443
Fayette149234
Steuben147113
Jasper144412
Harrison142924
LaGrange142630
Montgomery142127
Whitley137114
Ripley132115
Huntington127410
Decatur126143
Putnam124627
Randolph124519
Wells124429
White123222
Clay122523
Posey122116
Jefferson118816
Scott109020
Greene102653
Jay99013
Sullivan96416
Starke92021
Jennings85314
Fulton84518
Spencer8378
Perry82521
Fountain7798
Washington7527
Franklin69927
Carroll68613
Orange67328
Vermillion6243
Owen6087
Tipton57627
Parke5706
Newton56312
Rush5438
Blackford53412
Pike50919
Pulaski39515
Martin3585
Brown3424
Benton3402
Crawford2941
Union2702
Switzerland2575
Warren2382
Ohio2317
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Angola
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntington
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Van Wert
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 39°
Cloudy Thanksgiving
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events