Prince William and Kate visit Leicester City FC to pay tributeNovember 29, 2018
Royal couple praise club’s fans, players and chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in helicopter crash
The Duke of Cambridge has paid personal tribute to Leicester City FC, its fans and its chairman, who died along with four others in a helicopter crash at the club’s ground.
On a visit to King Power Stadium, Prince William, who knew Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, described the Thai billionaire businessman as a “man who cared deeply about his family and also his community”.
“He, of course, was a man of wealth, but that wealth did not leave him disconnected from those around him. He believed in giving back,” he said.
William went on to praise the club, which had written, he said, “the best underdog story in the history of modern sport”.
Srivaddhanaprabha died on 27 October, along with his employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, the pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a professional pilot. William revealed he had “had the privilege” to fly with Swaffer in the past.
During their visit, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge added a personal bouquet to the sea of flowers laid at a temporary tribute site set up by volunteers.
The couple met Srivaddhanaprabha’s wife, Aimon, daughter, Aroonroong, and son, Aiyawatt, who is the club’s vice-chairman. They also met players including Jamie Vardy and the goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, who witnessed the crash and has said the memory would always stay with him.
Addressing Leicester City fans and staff, Prince William praised the club’s achievements. “In 2016, this football club did something that should have been impossible. Against odds that are now the stuff of legend, you took on the goliaths and superstars of the world’s most famous football league.
“In powering past them all to win the title, you wrote the best underdog story in the history of modern sport.
“And when the man that led this club to victory died so tragically, the people of this city revealed with their outpouring of admiration that they too shared much of the character that was so central to who Vichai was.
“In a time when our football clubs have become huge global enterprises, you came out to thank Vichai for making the fans the true owners of this club. And you thanked him for investing the rewards of success in the future of Leicester City.
“You showed that community mattered to him and to you all.”
Aiyawatt said it was an honour to welcome the couple.
“For their royal highnesses to visit the city to pay their respects personally is a remarkable gesture of compassion to the families of those who lost their lives, to the staff and players of the club and to the people of the city whose lives were touched by my father,” he said.
The couple met volunteers who helped to set up the temporary tribute site, where the duchess placed the royal bouquet with a condolence card that read: “To Vichai and all those who died in this terrible tragedy, you will be dearly missed. Our sincere condolences to the city of Leicester.”
Srivaddhanaprabha, who bought Leicester City for £39m in 2010, boarded the flight after watching his team’s 1-1 draw with West Ham in the Premier League. The helicopter took off from the pitch at about 8.30pm and erupted in flames after crashing in an empty car park near the south-east corner of the stadium. He was due to fly to Luton airport before taking a private jet back to Thailand.