Leicester

Leicester City helicopter crash: Memorial service for pilots

Memorial photos
Image caption The couple were both experienced pilots who inspired others to qualify, the service heard

A service to remember a couple who died in a helicopter crash near Leicester City's stadium has been held.

The memorial for Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Lechowicz - both qualified pilots - took place at Guildford Cathedral.

The couple, from Surrey, died with club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and two members of his staff on 27 October.

Ms Lechowicz's sister, Kate, said of the couple: "You were heroes, even in your last breaths".

Mr Swaffer, 53, was the pilot of the helicopter on the day of the crash and had more than 20 years' flying experience as a private jet and helicopter pilot.

Image caption Flying jackets were laid out along with books of condolence

Ms Lechowicz, 46, moved to the UK from Poland in 1997.

She was a winner of the #Polka100 award, an accolade for "exceptional women who inspire the Polish community in Britain".

About 1,000 people from across the globe came to the service, which had to be moved to the cathedral from the couple's local church in Camberley to accommodate everyone.

Ms Lechowicz's sister, Kate, told the service: "Your lightness, your generosity, respect and appreciation were the foundations of everything you have been doing in life.

"Both of you will be so dearly missed. You were, and you will remain, in our hearts forever. Fly high, our special angels."

Fellow pilot Nayen Hirani said he met Mr Swaffer 15 years ago.

He said: "I struck lucky. I was introduced to Eric via a family friend. Eric's bold character and charisma instantly grasped my attention.

"He not just became a mentor but a hero and someone who I aspired to be like."

Image caption (L-R): Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, along with Izabela Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer, all died in the crash

He added through Mr Swaffer he met Ms Lechowicz who was "not only the perfect partner for Eric but a very warm-hearted and inspirational individual herself".

The memorial service programme added the couple were "passionate about many things" and invited donations to two charities, London's Air Ambulance or The Vegan Society.

Their flying jackets were placed in the cathedral along with a book of condolence for people to sign.

Private funerals for the couple took place on 22 November.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is investigating the crash.

An inquest into the death of the five people on board has been opened and adjourned. It heard there was "minimal chance" for anyone to survive.

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