Pilot killed in London crash named
The helicopter pilot killed in the crash in central London today which also claimed the life of another person on the ground has been named by sources as Pete Barnes.
The name of the other person killed has not been released. London Ambulance Service confirmed 12 people were also known to have been injured in the incident.
Mr Barnes, who piloted helicopters in action scenes in movies Die Another Day, Tomb Raider II and Saving Private Ryan, worked for an executive helicopter charter business, RotorMotion.
He had amassed around 9,000 hours of flying time, including 3,500 hours on the type of craft he was piloting when he died. In a UK career spanning 18 years, he had also flown air ambulances and worked as a pilot on adverts and TV programmes.
The helicopter had 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 helicopter clipped a crane on top of St George's Tower, one of Europe’s tallest residential towers, falling from the sky before exploding into flames and crashing into the streets below.
Paul Knightley, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said London City Airport was reporting a cloud base of just 100ft (30.5m) at 8am. The top of the building would have been shrouded in cloud, he added.
Records for the helicopter thought to be involved in the crash - callsign G-CRST - show it was built in 1997 and has twin engines made by Pratt & Whitney of the US. It has been registered with leasing company Castle Air of Liskeard, Cornwall, since February 2011.
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 [the numbers of casualties] was not many, many times worse.”
Capt Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion 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.”
RotorMotion’s website has pictures of famous passengers it has served including David Cameron, the Dalai Lama, Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole. The business has been operating for 15 years and describes itself as a “boutique helicopter charter business”.
On its website, RotorMotion says: “Our helicopters have twin turbine engines and are certified to fly at night, over water and in cloud. Relax in the knowledge that both pilot and machine are fully instrument qualified to fly in poor weather conditions.”
A spokesman for Berkeley Group, which owns St George, the development company for the tower involved, said in a statement: “Our thoughts at this time are with the friends and families of those killed in this tragic incident.”
There was traffic chaos in the wake of the incident, with Vauxhall Bridge Road southbound closed, Wandsworth Road partially closed, Nine Elms Lane partially closed and South Lambeth Road partially closed. Vauxhall Tube, railway and bus stations were also closed.
Stephen Swan, who lives in St George Wharf, said when he heard the collision he thought the nearby MI6 building had been attacked. “We heard a big crash, the bang, and then we got up and went out on the balcony. We thought something terrible had happened at MI6, it was scary,” he said.