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A vice-president of Chelsea Football Club and his teenage son were feared dead today, after their helicopter crashed into woodland following the club's Champions League semi-final exit last night.
Phillip Carter, who has an estimated personal wealth of £92 million, was believed to have been on board his helicopter with his 17-year-old son Andrew when it left Liverpool's John Lennon Airport at 11pm yesterday, heading for a private landing site near Peterborough.
The incident stirs memories of the 1996 crash which killed Chelsea’s vice-chairman Matthew Harding, 42, and four other men as they returned to London after watching a Coca Cola Cup tie.
After radars reported losing all contact just before 1am, police today confirmed that they had discovered its wreckage at Bedford Purlies Wood, near Duddington, in Cambridgeshire, close to the A47 and less than a mile from Mr Carter's home.
Officers added that four dead bodies had been found inside the helicopter, which was lying on its side, but that they could not yet be formally identified.
Those killed were believed to be Mr Carter, his best friend for 20 years Jonathan Waller, Mr Carter's son Andrew, and the pilot Stephen Holdich. A spokeswoman for Mr Carter's company, Carter & Carter Group PLC, confirmed he was on board.
She told Times Online today: "We believe that Phillip Carter was on board. Our hopes and prayers are with his family." She added that he was one of the club's vice-presidents.
In an official statement, Chelsea confirmed that none of its directors were on board the plane.
However, a Chelsea source later said: "He's vice-president, which is an honorary position. He is not an official of Chelsea, but it is someone we know very well."
The source added that vice-presidents are usually given their positions because they are wealthy long-term supporters of the club and have paid for "certain privileges".
Mr Carter, 44, is known as one of Britain's most successful businessmen, with a rapidly rising fortune. In last weekend's Sunday Times Rich List, he shot up to 770th position, with an accumulated wealth of £92 million. That represented a huge rise from the £60 million he was believed to be worth last year, when he was 944th on the list.
His firm Carter & Carter - which suspended its shares in today's trading following reports of the crash - has experienced rapid growth in recent years. It specialises in providing vocational training to big companies. The businessman was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006.
At a press conference held at the crash site today, Detective Superintendent John Raine confirmed that the four people on board had died. "We have identified that there are persons on board, and that those persons are deceased," he said.
He said all of the people had been found still inside the helicopter which was mostly intact, although a small amount of debris had been scattered close by.
Mr Raine added that "body recovery" and identification would take place "as soon as possible" but that the Department for Transport's air accident investigation branch - due to arrive at the scene shortly - would need to inspect the scene first. Police cordoned off a large area around the crash site, which is about 50 yards into woodland.
The entrepreneur's son Andrew, also thought to have been on board having attended last night's game at Anfield with his father, was believed to have been studying for his A levels at Stamford School, an independent boarding school in Lincolnshire. A spokesman for the school said it would make no comment until the bodies had been formally identified.
Shirley Waller, of Market Deeping near Peterborough, telephoned BBC News 24 to say that her son, Jonathan, was on board. She said she had tried to call his mobile, but had got no answer and feared the worst.