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Pilot in helicopter crash named
A helicopter pilot who died in a crash in central London that claimed the life of one other person and injured several others has been named by sources as Pete Barnes.
Mr Barnes, who has piloted helicopters in action scenes in movies Die Another Day, Tomb Raider II and Saving Private Ryan, worked for flight operator RotorMotion.
The helicopter spun out of control and crash-landed near Vauxhall station after the pilot attempted to divert the aircraft to a helipad due to bad weather. The AgustaWestland 109 Power clipped a crane on top of one of Europe's tallest residential towers, falling from the sky before exploding into flames and crashing into the streets below.
Captain Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, an executive helicopter charter business, said the aircraft was on a commercial flight from Redhill, in Surrey, to Elstree. He said: "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."
Addressing a press conference near the scene of the incident, Commander Neil Basu, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "It was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse."
It is understood the eight-seater aircraft was owned by Cornwall-based Castle Air but was leased to RotorMotion, which is based at Redhill Aerodrome. Staff at Redhill Aerodrome confirmed it left the site at 7.35am amid low cloud cover and poor visibility, while the owner of London Heliport said he requested to land at one of its sites via Heathrow air traffic control.
But the Heliport never established contact with the pilot and shortly before 8am the aircraft crashed into the crane on top of The Tower in the St George Wharf development on the River Thames. Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion as debris scattered across the sky and the helicopter plummeted to the ground, crashing near Wandsworth Road.
London Fire Brigade station manager Bruce Grain, one of first firefighters at the scene, said it "was absolute chaos" but he revealed the fire was put out within 20 minutes. Six fire engines, four fire rescue units, a number of other specialist vehicles and 88 firefighters attended the scene of the crash, a few hundred yards from MI6 and the future American embassy site. Four fire engines and two fire rescue units also attended reports of a crane in a precarious position. The brigade was called at 8am and 57 firefighters and officers were involved.
London Ambulance Service confirmed 12 people were injured in the incident. Pauline Cranmer, operations manager at London Ambulance Service, said: "The second fatality was not in the building. It was in close proximity to the helicopter. There were a number of injuries that would potentially be consistent with being hit by debris. Our primary concern is about treating the injuries."
The police force is working with other agencies including the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA).