The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s “big contribution to football”, as tributes continued to pour in for the late billionaire, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the weekend.
As details of the crash began to emerge on Monday, the Thai businessman’s son and vice chairman of the club, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, arrived at the King Power Stadium.
A procession of around 30 people made their way to the front of the shrine at the grounds to lay down a wreath on Monday. The group chanted as various tributes were added to those of fans – including candles and flowers.
In a statement, Prince William – who is president of the Football Association and a keen football fan – said he was “lucky” to have known Srivaddhanaprabha.
“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.”
Prime Minster Theresa May said her thoughts were with the victims’ families, friends and supporters. She said that the “outpouring of grief is a testament to how many people’s lives were touched by those on board”.
Ipswich boss Paul Lambert led the tributes on the ground at the stadium on Monday morning paying his respects to those who died. He joined around 200 fans at the ground as the tributes continued to grow.
Lambert said: “It’s not just the football club, it’s the whole of Leicester. It’s incredible what he (Vichai) did for everyone and it’s still incredibly shocking.
“I was in the city this morning and I wanted to come down and pay my respects like everyone else.
“He did it right. He embraced everything, he embraced the city and they embraced him. The two bounced off each other. His ownership wasn’t just football. It was a human thing as well.
“Others have died as well and it’s horrific, it’s absolutely tragic.”
Leicester City issued a statement late on Sunday describing the businessman, who bought the club for £39 million in 2010 and led it to a first Premier League title in 2016, as a “great man”.
The club said: “In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led.
“Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the Club that is now his legacy.”
Several players, led by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, have started paying tribute to the “dedicated and passionate” club owner.
Schmeichel said: “It is difficult to put into words how much you have meant to this football club and to the city of Leicester.
“You literally made my dreams come true.”
All five of the people on board the helicopter died, the other four were, pilot Eric Swaffer, his partner and co-pilot, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, and two members of Srivaddhanaprabha’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare.
The Polish embassy tweeted a tribute to Lechowicz, who came to the UK from Poland in 1997 and started flying in 2003, saying she was “a wonderful pilot”.
Lechowicz was a finalist in the Polka100 campaign for Poles who create a positive image of Poland in the UK.
Witnesses to the accident have praised Swaffer, who was at the controls at the time of the crash, for guiding the helicopter away from crowds leaving the ground after the football match.
Swaffer’s friend, Lucie Morris-Marr, told the Press Association: “Having been lucky to have known him as a friend and flown with him a few times as a passenger, it doesn’t surprise me that he would have done all he could to save lives and do everything in his power to avoid a worse outcome in those final moments.
“He was an incredible person and very focused when flying.”
Swaffer was an experienced flyer and had previously flown members of the royal family. He lived with Lechowicz in Camberley in Surrey.
Hundreds of tributes were left outside the grounds on Sunday by fans with others going to social media to share an amended image of the clubs logo.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is now leading the investigation in cooperation with Leicester Police into how the Agusta Westland AW169 helicopter crashed in what is believed to be the first accident involving an AW169 aircraft.