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Helicopters crashes into London crane, kills two

January 16, 2013  By CBC News

Jan. 16, 2013, London, U.K. - A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour on Wednesday, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air, and killing the pilot and one person on the ground while injuring 13, officials said.

The helicopter crashed in misty weather just south of the River Thames
near the Underground and mainline train station at Vauxhall, and close
to the headquarters of spy agency MI6.

Police said one person had critical injuries. Six were taken to a
nearby hospital with "minor injuries" and seven treated at the scene,
London Ambulance Service said.

"It was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse," said police Cmdr. Neil Basu.

The pilot, who was killed, had requested to divert and land at the
nearby London Heliport due to bad weather, the heliport said in a


"The London Heliport never gained contact with the helicopter," the statement said.

The Ministry of Defense said it was not a military helicopter, and a
British security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he
wasn't authorized to speak to the press said the incident was not

The horrific scene unfolded at the height of the morning commute when
thousands of pedestrians in the area were trying to get to work. The
weather at the time was overcast and misty with fog and poor visibility,
according to weather forecasting service the Met Office.

Video on Sky News showed wreckage burning in a street, and black
smoke in the area. The video from the crash scene showed a line of
flaming fuel and debris. Witnesses said the helicopter hit a crane atop a
50-storey residential building, the St. George Wharf Tower.

A passerby, Quin Murray, told CBC's Heather Hiscox that he missed
being caught in the falling wreckage by only a few metres, adding that
had he been 20 seconds earlier on his way to work, he would have been
under the debris.

"I was on my bike, on my usual commute to work, and something caught
my eye, and I saw this — you know, the helicopter crashing into the
crane, and plummeting to Earth, and exploding into a ball of fire and
smoke," Murray said.

A shaken Murray said he was taking the rest of the day off from work to collect himself.

"I was 100 per cent sure it was a terrorist attack," said Allen
Crosbie, site manager for the landscape firm Maylim Ltd., who was
working at the scene.

"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

William Belsey, 25, a landscape worker, also said he heard the helicopter hit the crane.

"Luckily the crane operator was late for work this morning. He picked a good day to be late," Belsey said.

Police Commander Neil Basu said one of the dead was the pilot of the
commercial helicopter, which had been flying from Redhill, south of
London. No one else was thought to be aboard, Basu said; the other
fatality was a person on the ground.

British aviation authorities had issued a "notice to airmen" warning
pilots about the crane, which extended to 235 metres above ground. The
crane is lit at night, and police said investigators would look at
whether the light was faulty.

The area, roughly 10 blocks from the major Waterloo train and
Underground station, is extremely congested during the morning rush
hour. Many commuters arrive at the main line stations from London's
southern suburbs and transfer to buses or trains there.

Aviation expert Chris Yates said that weather may have played a role.
Investigators also would look at whether the crane had navigation

"The question then becomes whether the pilot was fit," Yates said.


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