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Prince William and Kate visit Leicester helicopter crash site

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media captionDuke and Duchess of Cambridge lay floral tribute at Leicester crash site

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to the victims of the helicopter crash outside Leicester City's stadium on a visit to the city.

Club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died when the aircraft came down on 27 October.

The couple visited the crash site to meet players and hear about charities Mr Vichai supported, before going to the University of Leicester.

Prince William has said he was lucky to have known Mr Vichai for several years.

The former air ambulance helicopter pilot revealed during his visit he had flown with pilot Eric Swaffer, who died in the crash, only a few months before describing the experience as a "privilege".

image copyrightAaron Chown/PA Wire
image captionThe Duchess of Cambridge laid flowers at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash
image copyrightNeil P. Mockford/Getty Images
image captionPrince William personally knew Mr Vichai and described him as a man "dedicated to his family"

On arriving at the King Power stadium, Prince William clasped the hand of club vice-chairman and Mr Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha with both of his and spoke intently to him, before introducing Catherine.

  • Live: Royals visit helicopter crash site

The Duchess left a bouquet of flowers at the crash site and a condolence card, signed by the couple, which 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."

image copyrightPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
image captionAiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Mr Vichai's son, and Prince William were photographed hand-in-hand at the helicopter crash site
image copyrightPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
image captionThe couple also met senior figures from Leicester City, including star striker Jamie Vardy, club captain Wes Morgan and manager Claude Puel

Mathew Vieira was among those gathered outside the stadium to catch a glimpse of the couple and said he was there so his two-year-old daughter Layla could "wave at a princess".

He said: "It's nice of him [The Duke of Cambridge] to pay his respects. He's found time to come and share the grief of the whole club."

At the scene

By David Pittam, BBC News, outside the King Power Stadium

image copyright REUTERS/Andrew Yates
image captionThis was a visit for the royal couple to pay their respects

Barriers were in place for a crowd of hundreds but in the end it was only a few dozen who braved the rain for this royal visit.

And among those who did show up, the mood was a little subdued.

There was the excitement of spotting the Prince and Duchess and there was a fair bit of flag waving as they drove by.

But this was a visit for the royal couple to pay their respects and the crowd understood that.

It's hard to forget that the helicopter crash was so near - and many people were just happy to see such high profile recognition of the tragedy.

As one dad-of-four put it, they're "sharing in our grief".

Inside the stadium there was a special message above the pitch to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince William and Catherine also met members of the club's staff and volunteers who helped relocate the thousands of tributes left outside the King Power Stadium.

image captionA sign inside the stadium welcomed the royal couple
image copyrightAaron Chown/PA Wire
image captionPrince William, a keen football fan, and Catherine were given a tour of the stadium from Mr Vichai's son

At the club, the Duke gave a speech where he said the club did "something that should have been impossible" by winning the Premier League in 2016.

He said: "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."

image copyrightPaul ELLIS / AFP
image captionVice-chairman and Mr Vichai's son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, and Mr Vichai's widow Aimon were at the crash site before the royal couple arrived
image captionCrowds cheered as Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy arrived

During their visit to the university the Duke and Duchess heard of some of the educational programmes the club had helped to support.

This included a £1m donation by Mr Vichai in May to treat and research life-threatening illnesses, a resuscitation programme and a programme which helped children learn and develop life skills.

One of the children who has received help through a community project Mr Vichai supported, Sai Gokani, presented the Duchess with flowers and gave her a kiss before she left.

He originally went in for a handshake, prompting laughter from those watching.

image copyrightPhil Noble/PA Wire
image captionSai Gokani presented the Duchess with flowers and gave her a kiss
image captionHundreds of people waited in the rain outside the University of Leicester for the royal couple

Hundreds of students, staff and fans of the royals lined Centenary Square at the university to see the couple as they left.

Braving the ran and cold, their spirits were not dampened by the time the couple emerged from the university library and they walked out to a chorus of cheers from the crowds, said BBC reporter Nick Smith.

image copyrightJoe Giddens/PA Wire
image captionThe couple smiled and waved to the cheering crowd at the University of Leicester
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPrince William, pictured with Mr Vichai, previously paid tribute to the late chairman after the crash

Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, personally knew Mr Vichai and previously described him as a man "dedicated to his family".

Mr Aiyawatt said it was an "honour" to welcome the royal couple to the King Power Stadium.

He added: "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."

Two members of Mr Vichai's staff - Kaveporn Punpare and Nusara Suknamai - and Mr Swaffer's partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a qualified pilot, were also killed in the crash.

image copyrightGetty Images/Facebook/Instagram
image caption(L-R): Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer were killed in the crash

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