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Helicopter crashes in central London

A picture of the scene where a helicopter crashed in Vauxhall. Picture: Colin Smith A picture of the scene where a helicopter crashed in Vauxhall. Picture: Colin Smith

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
8:48 AM

A helicopter crashed in central London today after hitting a crane on top of a tower block by the River Thames.

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The fuel from the helicopter on fire. Picture: Nic Walker (@nic0)/TwitterThe fuel from the helicopter on fire. Picture: Nic Walker (@nic0)/Twitter

The stricken aircraft cartwheeled to the ground and exploded into flames before crashing into a street during the rush hour. Twitter user Nic Walker, under the handle @nic0, took a video showing the flames from the fuel which spilled onto the street.

Burning wreckage and aviation fuel covered the road as eyewitnesses reported seeing cars on fire and hearing people screaming.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the helicopter had come down. London Fire Brigade said the crash happened near Wandsworth Road in South Lambeth.

Fire and rescue services said they were taking “lots of emergency calls” as eyewitnesses described seeing grey smoke towering into the sky, close to Battersea Bridge, in Vauxhall.

The tower with the crane that the helicopter reportedly hit. Picture: Niamh ShevlinThe tower with the crane that the helicopter reportedly hit. Picture: Niamh Shevlin

Commuter Sherna Noah described seeing a “large plume of dark grey smoke” as she crossed Battersea Bridge at around 8am.

She said: “I was coming across the bridge and basically I could see a few cyclists on the bridge looking towards the water.

“I looked over to see what they were looking at and could see a pall of grey smoke coming from the south side.

“You could see a large plume of dark grey smoke.”

A woman who answered the phone at the London Heliport, in Battersea, would not comment on the fire.

Some eyewitnesses said the helicopter appeared to have hit a crane on a newly-built tower block on the south bank of the Thames at Vauxhall Cross.

It is thought the helicopter may have hit two cars. There were also reports that there was only one person in the helicopter.

Video footage shot on a mobile phone showed an entire road blocked by burning wreckage and aviation fuel.

The side of a building on one side of the street was also damaged by the flames.

Passers-by stood watching as the wreckage burned.

A motorcycle was also lying on its side in the road having been abandoned.

One eyewitness reported seeing cars on fire and hearing people screaming.

Paul Ferguson, who was working in an office near the incident, told BBC News: “There was a flash and the helicopter plunged to the ground. It exploded and you can imagine the smoke coming out of it.

“It was probably heading from the nearby heliport. It may be that on this misty morning the lights on nearby St George’s Tower weren’t on and it moved and clipped the edge of the crane and lost control.”

Eyewitness Chris Matthison told BBC News: “There was some damage to the crane. It’s possible the crane is lying across Nine Elms road.

“The top of the nearest building is steeped in mist and difficult to see.”

He added: “I heard a very unusual dull thud, then there was silence. The silence really took my imagination. Emergency services responded very quickly.”

London Fire Brigade confirmed that the crane at the St George’s Wharf development appeared to have been left “in a precarious position”.

The incident caused gridlock as roads were closed at the height of the rush hour.

Visibility was apparently low with London City Airport in Docklands reporting delays. The top of the tower block was obscured by mist.

Erin Rogers was waiting at a bus stop outside Vauxhall station.

He said: “It was a bit surreal actually. I just had a coffee in my hand, I looked up, heard a bang and saw bits of crane debris falling to the floor.

“Then the helicopter was in flames. The rest of the people at the bus station were looking on going ‘What was that?’.

“It’s something I will never forget for a long time.”

Are you in the area? Did you see the crash? Get in touch via Twitter on @London24 or email sarah.shaffi@archant.co.uk.

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