Created on: January 16, 2013
London officials have confirmed that two people are dead and 13 more are injured after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane and fell into a crowded central London street, according to the Associated Press. The incident created strong flames and black plumes of smoke into the air Wednesday.
The helicopter pilot, Captain Pete Barnes, and a person on the ground, near the River Thames near the train and Underground station at Vauxhall, were killed. Local authorities say one person suffered critical injuries and six others were treated on the scene with less severe injuries and immediately transported to a nearby hospital. The other six were looked at by medics near the event.
The incident occurred as busy Londoners were heading to work at 8 a.m. The pilot had asked to land at the close London Heliport because of the bad weather, which was described as foggy. Barnes was never able to get in touch with the facility, according to a statement released on its website.
Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, an executive helicopter charter firm, issued a statement following the reports, which noted that the aircraft was an AgustaWestland 109 and was traveling on a commercial flight.
“Our main priority now is for the family of the pilot and we extend our greatest sympathy to the friends and relatives of those who have died and been injured,” stated Amadeus.
The company later issued a full statement:
“RotorMotion can confirm the identity of the pilot who was killed in this morning’s tragic accident in London. Captain Peter Barnes, aged 50 from the Reading area, has been flying with RotorMotion since it was established over 15 years ago. He was a very highly skilled pilot, one of the most experienced in the UK, with over 12,000 flying hours. We are devastated by the loss of a highly valued colleague and very dear friend. Our thoughts and condolences are with Peter's wife and children.”
Meanwhile, the crane had a height of 770 feet (236 metres) and was on top of a 50-storey residential building St. George Wharf Tower. Several vehicles and two buildings caught fire, while about 80 firefighters tried to take out the flames.
Quin Murray, a passerby, told CBC News that he was only a few metres from the wreckage when it occurred and noted that if he was 20 seconds earlier on his way to his job then he would have been under the debris.
Allen Crosbie, site manager for the landscape firm Maylim Ltd., who was working at the scene, was also shaken up and actually thought it was a terrorist attack.
“I was 100 percent sure it was a terrorist attack,” said Crosbie in an interview with the Canadian news outlet. “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.”
Metropolitan Police Commander Neil Basu told BBC News that it was “miraculous” that the incident wasn’t more damaging and severe. “It was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse.”
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