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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Two dead and 13 injured as helicopter hits crane on new Thames skyscraper and plunges into traffic after pilot flew into bad weather

By MARK DUELL, HUGO GYE, CHRISTIAN GYSIN and LARISA BROWN

Two people died today including a pilot and nine more were injured - one critically - after a helicopter struck a newly-built tower and plunged into rush hour traffic in central London.

Witnesses said the helicopter - which had requested to divert via Heathrow air traffic control and land at Battersea Heliport due to bad weather conditions - hit a crane at the top of the tower near Vauxhall Bridge in Vauxhall, central London, at 8am.
The AgustaWestland AW109 twin-engine helicopter, which struck the under-construction luxury The Tower St George Wharf, was reported to have been carrying a pilot but no passengers. One witness said the crane driver had a lucky escape from the crash after being unusually late for work.

Major emergency: The scene of a helicopter crash on Wandsworth Road in Vauxhall, central London, after the fire had been extinguished

The aircraft hit the ground just 20 yards from Vauxhall station, which is a major commuting hub in the capital. It was using the route of the River Thames and was believed to have been heading from Redhill, Surrey, to Elstree, Hertfordshire, to collect an executive.
Witnesses reported very low cloud at the time of the accident, suggesting the pilot may not have seen the crane, which was barely visible from street level. At least two cars were hit by debris from the crash. The area was evacuated because of the precarious position of the crane at the top of the tower.

Carnage: Debris lies on the ground after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top The Tower St George Wharf in central London

Six of the injured were taken to hospital and the other seven were treated at the scene, ambulance officials said. Four were taken to St Thomas’ Hospital and two were taken to King’s College Hospital. A reception centre for members of public involved in the incident was also set up by ambulance staff.
One eyewitness said the helicopter was 'rocking and shaking from side to side' before crashing. A worker at the New Covent Garden Flower Market, around 200 yards from the crash site, said some debris from the crash - believed to be the gearbox - hit somebody working there in the leg.

Mangled: The crane the helicopter crashed into at 8am at Vauxhall in central London. Both are pictures from today, with the right photo taken during a break in the cloud

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was searching the Thames as part of the emergency services' response to the accident. The charity launched an inshore lifeboat in the aftermath of the crash.
Terry Alkins, 28, and Joe O'Dwyer, 44, were working on an adjacent building site when the helicopter crashed into the crane.

Similar: An Augusta 109 helicopter like the one that crashed in Vauxhall, central London. Black smoke filled the sky as emergency services raced to the scene

Mr Alkins said: 'It was around 8am and we just heard this massive bang. We ran off the site and down the road and seconds later we saw the helicopter or what was left of it in flames lying on the road.
‘From what I saw I will be amazed if the pilot survived. There were at least three cars on fire, including a silver Range Rover and there were some motorbikes strewn over the road.'

source: Read more at dailymail



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