2 dead, 13 hurt after helicopter crashes in London
LONDON — A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others injured, officials said.
The helicopter crashed in misty weather just south of the River Thames near the Underground and mainline train station at Vauxhall, and close to the headquarters of spy agency MI6.
Police said one person had critical injuries. Six were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries and seven treated at the scene, ambulance officials said.
"It was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse," police Cmdr. Neil Basu said.
The pilot, who was killed, had requested to divert and land at the nearby London Heliport because of bad weather, the heliport said in a statement.
"The London Heliport never gained contact with the helicopter," the statement said.
The aircraft, an AgustaWestland 109, was on a commercial flight, said Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, an executive helicopter charter business.
The company identified the pilot as Peter Barnes, 50, whose career included flying in films including "Saving Private Ryan" and the James Bond movie "Die Another Day."
"He was a very highly skilled pilot, one of the most experienced in the U.K., with over 12,000 flying hours," Amadeus said. "We are devastated by the loss of a highly valued colleague and very dear friend."
The crash unfolded at the height of the morning commute when thousands of pedestrians in the area were trying to get to work. The weather at the time was overcast and misty with fog and poor visibility, according to the Met Office weather forecasting service.
Video from the scene showed wreckage burning in a street, and black smoke in the area, with a line of flaming fuel and debris marking the area where the helicopter smashed down. Witnesses said the disaster unfolded when the helicopter hit a crane atop a 50-story residential building, the St. George Wharf Tower.
"I was 100 percent sure it was a terrorist attack," said Allen Crosbie, site manager for the landscape firm Maylim Ltd., who was working at the scene.
"There was debris everywhere, a ton of black smoke. Parts of the crane, parts of the helicopter. I heard bang, bang - I presume it was the helicopter hitting the crane and then the ground. People were just panicking."
William Belsey, 25, a landscape worker, also said he heard the helicopter hit the crane.
"Luckily the crane operator was late for work this morning. He picked a good day to be late," Belsey said.
Mayor Boris Johnson said the crane had been secured and was not in danger of collapsing.
Basu said one of the dead was the pilot of the commercial helicopter, which had been flying from Redhill, south of London. No one else was thought to be aboard, Basu said; the other fatality was a person on the ground.
British aviation authorities had issued a "notice to airmen" warning pilots about the crane, which extended to 770 feet (235 meters) above ground. The crane is lit at night, and police said investigators would look at whether the light was faulty.
The area, roughly 10 blocks from the major Waterloo train and Underground station, is extremely congested during the morning rush hour. Many commuters arrive at the main line stations from London's southern suburbs and transfer to buses or trains there.
Aviation expert Chris Yates said that weather may have played a role. Investigators also would look at whether the crane had navigation lights.
"The question then becomes whether the pilot was fit," Yates said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- McCullers’, McLendon’s prowess in clogging trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Reds solve Cole, stave off Pirates’ 9th-inning rally
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- High school notebook: Baseball standouts showcase their skills for pro scouts
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation