Helicopter Crash In Vauxhall: Fatalities Named

The second person killed when a helicopter crashed in London has been named as Matthew Wood.

The 39-year-old from Sutton and helicopter pilot Peter Barnes died after the aircraft hit a crane on St George Wharf Tower, in Vauxhall, amid heavy fog.

It cartwheeled out of the sky, smashed into two cars as it hit the ground and exploded into flames.

Mr Barnes, aged 50, was the only person aboard the helicopter, while Mr Wood is understood to have been on the ground.

The pilot from the Reading area had worked for the RotorMotion helicopter charter business for 15 years and had flown aircraft during the production of films such as Die Another Day and Saving Private Ryan.

"He was a very highly skilled pilot, one of the most experienced in the UK, with over 12,000 flying hours," the company said in a statement.

It added it was "devastated by the loss of a highly valued colleague and very dear friend".

The helicopter was on a long lease to RotorMotion from Castle Air Charters, whose managing director Ross Bunyard said: "We are not in a position to make any further comment, beyond expressing our sympathies and condolences to all those affected by the accident."

Twelve people were injured. Five are in hospital, including one with a broken leg, and seven were treated at the scene.

One man was rescued from a burning car.

Burning wreckage and aviation fuel covered the road, as cars caught fire and people screamed and ran seeking shelter from the flying debris, witnesses have said.

Two office buildings, five cars and two motorbikes were damaged.

Flames raged and a huge column of black smoke billowed from the crash site just off Wandsworth Road, near South Lambeth Road.

Firefighters said the crane was in a "precarious" position but ruled out any "imminent risk" of a collapse.

They urged people to stay away from the area while specialists assess the damage sustained by the crane.

Rescue crews searched the River Thames following reports that somebody had been seen in the water after the crash.

Emergency services say the Agusta 109 helicopter was on a scheduled commercial flight from Surrey to Elstree, but was diverted to Battersea due to bad weather.

Flights in and out of London City Airport, in Docklands, had been delayed earlier in the day due to poor visibility.

Shortly after the crash at around 8am, firefighters, police and ambulances rushed to the scene.

Michael Krumstets, who lives in the area, said he had seen the helicopter hit the crane and the aircraft fall "directly towards us".

"We ran from the side of the road and it hit the road just besides us … and then it exploded," he said.

Sarah-Beth Casey lives in an apartment near the scene.

She told Sky News: "You're always worried about things like 9/11 and things like that.

"When I heard the explosion, it was like a little earthquake. It was like a gas explosion. I looked up to see debris falling off the tower."

The tower is a 185-metre (200-yard) high cylindrical block overlooking the Thames and the Houses of Parliament.

Bruce Grain, a station manager for London Fire Brigade and among the first to arrive at the scene, said the driver of one of the cars that had been hit managed to get out, while the driver of the other vehicle could not be immediately located.

"Large parts of the helicopter are in the road," Mr Grain told Sky News.

"There is debris over surrounding buildings … three buildings."

He said firefighters had extinguished the fire.

David Cameron said rules for helicopter flights over central London would need to be carefully looked at following the accident.

The Prime Minister was "very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries" in the crash, his spokesman said.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the lighting of cranes and tall buildings would be reviewed, but that it would be "premature" to second guess the investigation into the collision.

Aviation expert Chris Yates told Sky News that any tall structure must have a warning light on top to alert pilots.

The question is, he said, whether there was a warning light on the crane and whether the pilot would have been able to see it in the foggy conditions.

RotorMotion says on its website that its helicopters "are fully instrument qualified to fly in poor weather conditions".

The company, whose website features pictures of famous passengers including the Dalai Lama, offered its "full support and assistance" to authorities investigating the crash.

The crash, which happened close to a railway line during rush hour, disrupted transport across central London.

Roads were cordoned off and train services were briefly suspended but are now running in and out of Waterloo station, while Vauxhall tube station was closed but has now reopened.

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