Prince William had a very close connection to the Leicester City pilot who died in the tragic helicopter crash at the football club, it's been revealed. Upon visiting the city with wife the Duchess of Cambridge on Wednesday, William told the crowd in a speech at the King Power Stadium that he had flown with Eric Swaffer before – and later, during more private conversations, that he had only been with him just a few months before the awful crash.
William and Kate paid tribute to the victims of the tragic crash
Former Leicester City player Alan Birchenall told royal reporters that the Prince had described flying with Eric as a "privilege", and that he had flown together with the hero pilot only recently. He also added that though he no longer flies professionally, the Duke still takes to the skies to keep up his flying hours.
In his speech, William said: "Catherine and I wanted to visit Leicester to pay tribute to a man that we knew, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and those who died alongside him in October… Catherine and I also wanted to come to Leicester because of what the people of this city, and fans of this club, have shown us all over the last few weeks… You showed us that the losses experienced by other families need to be felt keenly by our own. You were paying tribute to Vichai, Kaveporn, Nusara, Izabela, and a man I had the privilege to fly with in the past, Eric Swaffer."
William during his final shift for the East Anglian Air Ambulance in July 2017
William and Kate laid flowers to pay their respects to the club and the five people who died in the helicopter crash in October – club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, his employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, who was also a professional pilot. The royal couple visited the tribute site near the stadium, before meeting players and members of the club's management team.