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Helicopter crash: Investigation into cause of accident which left two dead and 13 injured

The scene of the helicopter crash in Vauxhall. Picture: steveheard82/Twitter The scene of the helicopter crash in Vauxhall. Picture: steveheard82/Twitter

Luke Jacobs
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
6:28 PM

Investigators at the scene of a helicopter crash in Vauxhall that left the pilot and a person on the ground dead and several people injured are continuing their inquiries.

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The scene on the ground after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top of St George's Wharf tower building. Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA WireThe scene on the ground after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top of St George's Wharf tower building. Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

The twin-engine aircraft crashed into a crane at the top of St George Tower at around 8am, sending debris careering into the side of nearby office buildings and on the surrounding roads before plummeting to the ground in Wandsworth Road.

Thirteen others were injured at the scene, six were taken to Guys and St Thomas’ and Kings College hospitals, one suffering a broken leg.

Witnesses described hearing a large bang and seeing a fireball, before large plumes of smoke billowed from the scene.

Construction workers and residents were evacuated from the adjacent St George Wharf while firefighters made sure the scene was safe.

The damaged crane on top of St Georges Tower close to the scene where the helicopter crashed. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA WireThe damaged crane on top of St Georges Tower close to the scene where the helicopter crashed. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The pilot, Pete Barnes, 50, was on a scheduled commercial flight on route between the Redhill Aerodrome and Elstree. It is thought he was looking for a landing pad but police would not say whether it was looking to land in Battersea.

He was an experienced flyer who was working freelance for Rotormotion and had worked on adverts and films, including Die Another Day, Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.

Shocked witnesses described hearing a loud bang and a flash of light as debris scattered across the sky and the twin-engine aircraft crashed near Wandsworth Road.

Sharon Moore, who lives on the nearby Wyvil Estate, said she saw the aircraft slice through the crane “as if it was a piece of paper”.

The aftermath of the helicopter crash this morning. Picture: Nic Walker/PA WireThe aftermath of the helicopter crash this morning. Picture: Nic Walker/PA Wire

She said: “The helicopter did not seem to know which way to turn and then it just dropped, it sliced, screeching into the metal.”

Martin Gladden, who lives and works in St George’s Wharf, described it as “all a bit surreal”.

He said: “I didn’t really quite know what was happening at the time.

“I thought it was just the crane that had collapsed I went and had a look and saw a lot of debris on the road and the jib of the crane on Nine Elms Lane.”

Thick plumes of smoke could be seen at the scene in Vauxhall. Picture: Max James Tolhurst/PA WireThick plumes of smoke could be seen at the scene in Vauxhall. Picture: Max James Tolhurst/PA Wire

Another St George’s Wharf resident, a mother-of-two, said she was scared because she had left her children inside the house to rush to a pre-planned hospital appointment.

“I just heard a big boom when I was inside the house,” she said. “When I came out, I could see a lot of people running around, they were trying to evacuate people.

“You never think this sort of thing might happen.”

The incident is now being investigated by police, fire service, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Civil Aviation Authority.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said lighting of cranes and tall buildings will be reviewed, but that it would be premature to second guess the investigation into today’s helicopter smash.

And the Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the emergency services earlier today.

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