Tragic Leicester pilot and partner lived an ‘aviation love story’, friend says

The pilot who was killed in the helicopter crash outside Leicester City’s stadium has been remembered as a “funny and vivacious” man who was travelling the world with his soulmate.

Eric Swaffer died alongside his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz in the crash which also claimed the life of Leicester City Football Club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and two of his staff members, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare.

Mr Swaffer was at the controls of the aircraft when it crashed in a car park just metres from the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening.

Witnesses said he was a hero for guiding the spinning helicopter away from crowds on the ground.

Friend Lucie Morris-Marr described Mr Swaffer as a “veteran in the field” and said he would have done all he could to prevent lives being lost in the incident.

Speaking to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live, she said: “He was such a buoyant, vibrant, funny person, but when it came time to fly it was game time, he was deadly serious.”

She added: “I’m so proud of him that it seems he did save other lives in that moment. He would have done absolutely everything for those on board and others. That was just his nature.”

Mr Swaffer and Ms Lechowicz were both professional pilots and lived together in Camberley, Surrey.

Ms Morris-Marr described it as an “aviation love story”, adding: “They were travelling the world, they were so happy. Not many people get to work and travel with their soulmate, travelling the world going to glamorous places.

“It’s terribly, terribly sad. It will take a long time to get over.”

Asked how she would remember Mr Swaffer, she said: “For his laugh. He was just so funny and vivacious, but absolutely so skilled about flying. He was an absolutely wonderful guy.”

The Polish embassy described Ms Lechowicz as “a wonderful pilot” who “created a positive image of Poland in the UK”.

“It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Izabela Lechowicz in the Leicester helicopter crash,” a statement said.

“Our deepest condolences to her family.”

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