‘Heroine of the skies’ and pilot boyfriend killed in horror air crash

Lechowicz, who came from Bystrzyca Klodzka in south-west Poland, moved to the UK in 1997 after studying in Wrocław, and it was there she met Swaffer and became inspired to take to the skies. Eric Swaffer / Facebook

A Polish pilot described as an “inspiration to Poles in the UK” has been named of one of the victims of Saturday’s helicopter crash in England that claimed the lives of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire who owned Leicester City football club, and four others.

Izabela Lechowicz was co-pilot on the helicopter that crashed just minutes after taking off from Leicester’s football ground. 

The aircraft, owned by the Thai businessman, appeared to suffer engine failure before smashing into an empty carpark adjacent to the ground and bursting into flames.

The pilot, Eric Swaffer who was also Lechowicz’s romantic partner, has been hailed as a hero for managing to guide the stricken helicopter away from houses and a carpark still packed with fans heading off after a match.

The Polish embassy in London described her as an exceptional woman and an inspiration to Poles living in the UK when it chose her as one of the Polka100 finalists, a selection of leading Polish women in Britain.Polish Embassy in UK / Twitter

Reacting to the news of the death of the 46-year-old Pole the Polish embassy in London described her as a “wonderful pilot”.

An official statement said: “It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Izabela Lechowicz in the Leicester helicopter crash. She was a wonderful pilot and a #Polka100 campaign finalist who created a positive image of Poland in the UK. Our deepest condolences to her family.”

Lechowicz, who came from Bystrzyca Klodzka in south-west Poland, moved to the UK in 1997 after studying in Wrocław, and it was there she met Swaffer and became inspired to take to the skies. 

Izabela Lechowicz was co-pilot on the helicopter that crashed just minutes after taking off from Leicester’s football ground. Izabella Lechowicz / Facebook

After earning her wings Lechowicz flew all kinds of aircraft around the world and also became an instructor. 

Such was her impact that the Polish embassy described her as an “exceptional woman and an inspiration to Poles living in the UK” when it chose her as one of the Polka100 finalists, a selection of leading Polish women in Britain.

Lucie Morris-Marr, a friend of both Lechowicz and Swaffer, described the relationship between the two pilots as an “aviation love story”. 

She added: “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.”