Prince William joins tributes to football club owner killed in helicopter crash

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha son of Leicester Chairman lays a wreath in memory of his father with his mother Aimon. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha son of Leicester Chairman lays a wreath in memory of his father with his mother Aimon. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
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The Duke of Cambridge has praised Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s “big contribution to football” after the Thai duty-free billionaire was killed in a helicopter crash outside the club’s King Power Stadium on Saturday.

Prince William, president of the Football Association and a keen football fan, said he was “lucky” to have known Mr Srivaddhanaprabha “for several years”, as tributes continued to flood in for the businessman and the four other people on board.

He joined Prime Minister Theresa May in sending his thoughts to the victims’ families, friends and the club’s supporters, while Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s wife Aimon and 
son Aiyawatt were among those to lay a wreath at the ground.

The duke said: “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.

“He will be missed by all fans of the sport and everyone lucky enough to have known him.”

Police confirmed Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was killed, along with two staff members, the pilot and a passenger, when the aircraft fell from the sky and burst into flames at about 8:30pm on Saturday. The four others are believed to be Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

Those visiting the scene yesterday also included Somyot Poompanmoung, president of the Thai FA, and Mr Poompanmoung’s wife, Potjaman Poompanmoung.

Tom Meighan, the lead singer of Leicester rock band Kasabian, said the helicopter crash was “like your worst nightmare”.

The performer, at the scene yesterday to grieve with fellow supporters, said the death of the club’s owner was like 
“losing a member of your family”.

Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Meighan said: “At the minute I’m feeling pretty numb.

“The football world is numb, not just Leicester City. The whole world is in mourning.”

Tributes were also paid to the others on board.

Brighton College described former pupil Mr Swaffer as a “kind and popular” student.

Headmaster Richard Cairns said: “Eric was at Brighton 
College from 1979 to 1983 and fell in love with flying when, 
as a schoolboy cadet, he 
visited a Royal Navy ship flight deck.

“His contemporaries and teachers remember him as a kind and popular boy.”

The Polish embassy described Ms Lechowicz as “a wonderful pilot”.

It 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.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is carrying out an inquiry into what caused the Agusta Westland AW169 helicopter to crash shortly after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.

It is believed to be the first accident involving an AW169 aircraft.

Hundreds of tributes have been left outside the ground The club will set up a book of condolence at the stadium today.