Leicester City crash: Hero chopper pilot who saved many by steering stricken copter away from crowds, died with 'soul mate' by his side
Eric Swaffer died in the crash along with his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, which also took the lives of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the owner of the Leicester City Football Club
Lucie Morris-Marr, a close friend of the pilot who died in the helicopter crash that took place outside Leicester City's stadium said that he was "living the dream" as he got to travel the world with his soulmate who was also his co-pilot. Eric Swaffer died in the crash along with his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, which also took the lives of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the owner of the Leicester City Football Club, and his two staff members, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare. The professional pilot couple was living together in Camberley, Surrey, where a long-time friend said that they just recently bought a house together.
Morris-Marr spoke to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live and described the relationship as an "aviation love story". She added: "Not many people get to work and travel with their soulmate, travelling the world going to glamorous places." She told The Sun in an interview: "It’s so utterly tragic they have gone. I’m not surprised to read early reports that Eric may have steered the helicopter away from crowds and cars. He would have done everything in his power to save lives."
The Leicester helicopter pilot miraculously avoided landing into 100s of fans by somehow steering the chopper into a car park, as it spun wildly out of control. Imagine having the selfless presence of mind to do that, knowing you're about to die?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 28, 2018
RIP Eric Swaffer - a hero. pic.twitter.com/RafZbZUaFY
Swaffer's partner, Lechowicz, moved to the UK from her home country of Poland in 1997. She had been selected by the Police embassy in London as one of the 18 most exceptional Polish women who inspire the Polish community in the UK after she was made a pilot. Lechowicz wrote about how she became a pilot earlier in 2018 for a project that celebrated women getting the vote in Poland in 1918. She wrote that she was inspired by Swaffer.
43-year-old Swaffer is known to have been experienced at flying multiple types of aircraft and is also said to have been a Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) instructor and examiner for a few aircraft and helicopter types. The pilot used to also fly the helicopter for live broadcasts of The Big Breakfast and Virgin Radio's travel helicopter. Swaffer was at the controls of the helicopter that crashed into a car park just a few meters away from the King Power Stadium on October 27 evening.
Swaffer's line of work took him to beautiful places around the world and even allowed him to meet some of the most influential people on the planet such as the Dalai Lama. His "passion", however, was said to be helicopters.
Morris-Marr described her friend as "extremely funny, charming and cheeky with a wicked sense of humor. She added: "Everyone loved him. I'm not surprised the chairman hired him. He was always great company. I would always ask him about his famous clients but he was so discreet which is why they hired him, of course." She continued by saying: "He was so generous and kind to his friends - when I lived in London he once flew us in a helicopter to a country hotel for afternoon tea. He loved his life. And he seemed to be living the dream flying with his girlfriend. Which is why their sudden passing in this tragedy is so terribly, terribly sad."
Morris-Marr said that the couple were both professional pilots who recently bought a home in Camberley, Surrey. She also said that the pair had been together for nearly 10 years before their tragic deaths. She said: "In recent years they have been in high demand from private clients in particular."
Who Were Izabela Roza Lechowicz And Eric Swaffer And Were They On The Fatal Helicopter Crash That Killed Leicester City Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha— Sir Nicusor Muldoon LCFC Fan (@NicusorMuldoon) October 29, 2018
Rest In Peace To The Pilot And Co Pilot pic.twitter.com/c63KtvJfci
She continued: "[They] have been flying private jets and helicopters as a duo enabling them to travel to some amazing locations such as Greece, Thailand and Vienna. Recently, I was pleased to see from his Facebook posts that he had put down roots and bought a beautiful home with Izabela in Camberley. They were often having dinner parties with their many friends."
The experienced pilot was always conscious about safety and made sure that he always topped up in his training. When Swaffer was asked what he doesn't get into a flight without, he told the Private Fly: "I always carry my MacBook Pro and my Blackberry. If the flight involves an oceanic crossing or when you are expected to be several hours from a diversion airfield, I like to check the aircraft has a medical kit and defibrillator as well as the mandatory first aid kit."
Witnesses at the scene have said that Swaffer was a hero for being able to expertly guide the spiraling helicopter away from the multitudes of fans on the ground. Morris-Marr, who has been friends with Swaffer for 18 years, said that he would have done everything in his power to prevent any loss of life in the incident.
I lost my dearest friends Eric Swaffer and Izabela Lechowicz.(Helicopter Crash in Leicester city U.K.)Both are very great person and very loving ,I Miss you so much -Rest In Peace 🌹🌹🙏🏻🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/4cnrDIuzVb— Keshar Singh Rathore (@KesharSingh1984) October 29, 2018
She said: "Having been lucky to have known him as a friend and flown with him a few times as a passenger, it doesn't surprise me that he would have done all he could to save lives and do everything in his power to avoid a worse outcome in those final moments. He was an incredible person and very focused when flying."
Tributes have been overflowing from fans for the victims of the tragedy. On October 29, Prince William paid his respects to Leicester City owner Srivaddhanaprabha, saying: "I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years. He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of important charitable causes. He made such a big contribution to football, not least through Leicester City’s magical 2016 season that captured the imagination of the world."
The Polish embassy described Lechowicz as a "wonderful pilot" who was able to create a "positive image of Poland in the UK". The statement read: "It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Izabela Lechowicz in the Leicester helicopter crash. Our deepest condolences to her family."