January 16, 2013

Helicopter crash in Vauxhall, London - two confirmed dead (VIDEO)

• Two dead and 11 injured as helicopter crashes
• Helicopter crashed at 8am, peak of rush-hour
• Eyewitness reports: 'it was like an earthquake'
• Helicopter was travelling from Redhill to Elstree
• Vauxhall Bridge, railway station and bus station all closed

12.06 The London Ambulance Service has released an update: it has treated six patients - five for minor injuries and one for a broken leg. Four of the patients were taken to St Thomas' Hospital and two - a man and a woman - were taken to King's College Hospital. Seven patients were treated on scene.

12.03 Prime Minister's Questions has just begun in the House of Commons, and David Cameron has thanked the emergency services for their "rapid and professional response" over the helicopter crash this morning.

11.57 The helicopter pilot had been travelling from Redhill, Surrey, to Elstree in Hertfordshire, the location of film studios, where ITV's Dancing on Ice, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Big Brother is filmed.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the nearby MI6 office went into lock down when the helicopter first crashed and exploded amid fears Britain’s intelligence service may have been at risk.

Contingency plans kicked in as soon as the incident happened, it is understood, but it became clear very quickly that it was a tragic accident.

11.55 Jose Gomes was cycling to work when he saw debris from the helicopter crash into the road a few yards ahead of him, setting light to a car. He shot this footage on his mobile phone:

11.51 The pilot of the helicopter which crashed in central London had requested to divert and land at London Heliport at Battersea due to bad weather, a spokesman for the owners of the heliport says.

11.45 Local MP Kate Hoey says she learned of the accident in a phone call from the police, who said they initially feared it couldve been their own helicopter - but they realised that it wasnt flying because of the bad weather.
She expressed concerns that there could be too many helicopters flying in central London now and that "maybe people have just become a little complacent", but that this was an issue for "another day".

"Maybe we've come to take it almost for granted that people have the right to take their helicopter over London any time they want. The regulations are very clear about helicopters not flying less than 500ft away from structures and so on." She opposed the building of the tower which the helicopter hit.

11.41 The image below shows construction workers and firefighters surveying the damage at the top of St Georges Wharf Tower in Vauxhall, next to the damaged crane which was hit by the helicopter.

11.37 Eyewitness and mother-of-five Sharon Moore, who lives on the nearby Wyvil Estate, says she saw the aircraft slice through the crane "as if it was a piece of paper". Ms Moore, 36, who was with her nine-year-old daughter Tiah, described hearing four bangs and watching two cars explode:

My daughter was so traumatised, it was so shocking. It sounded like a massive explosion, like something whining in the sky and then it just went bang

You couldn't see a lot at first because of the fog. The helicopter did not seem to know which way to turn and then it just dropped, it sliced, screeching into the metal. It sliced it as if it was a piece of paper. It just ripped apart.

I called the police and they got there in seconds. We could then see them trying to pull people out of the cars. We saw someone pulled out and they were covered.

We saw the helicopter falling out of the sky, loads of smoke as it landed. It went bang. Another car went bang. There was lots of smoke and debris.

11.28 Prime Minister David Cameron was "very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries" in today's helicopter crash, his spokesman says.

11.24 More information now from our chief reporter, Gordon Rayner:

A spokesman for Castle Air told the Telegraph: "We are not in a position to make any comment but we will be releasing a statement later."

11.17 The Metropolitan Police are giving a press conference at the site now. Borough Commander Neil Basu confirms that the helicopter pilot was killed, and there was one other fatality. The helicopter was a commercial scheduled flight from Surrey, he says - it may have been diverted because of the weather.

The police say it was a member of the public who made the first emergency call, at around 8am. A fire service spokesman added that the crane is in a "perilous position", but that there's no reason for the public to be concerned about any hazardous materials in the air from the crash.

Despite an earlier tweet from the police which claimed there were 11 injured, the spokesman now says nine people were hurt - five for minor injuries, who were then hospitalised, and a further four who were treated on scene.

11.14 This video shows the aftermath of the crash:

11.12 An eyewitness describes the scene at Vauxhall:

11.08 We have a video now of the RNLI searching the Thames after the helicopter crash.

11.05 Our reporter John-Paul Ford Rojas is at Battersea Heliport, where he says there's not much activity - it's shut for the rest of the day and the office is closed for a staff debrief.

10.56 The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, says the accident was a "shock". At the moment it's believed that there are 11 injured, but because people are travelling to different hospitals it's hard to be definitive. The police believe that the helicopter was diverting to Battersea Heliport, rather than travelling there.

10.51 The picture below is taken from the British Helicopter Association's 2009/2010 handbook showing the specifications of the model of helicopter involved in the crash.

10.44 The Met has updated the figures on those killed and injured:

10.41 Aviation expert Chris Yates - previously aviation security editor at Jane's - said that the aircraft had a "very good safety record".

It may well be that the pilot was suddenly incapacitated for some reason. We simply don't know at the moment, and these are questions for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

Helicopter routes are clearly defined through London airspace for all of the obvious reasons, not least of which are the high-rise buildings.
The question must be whether the visibility was so poor this morning that the navigation lights were... not visible to the pilot. They're there for an express purpose, and that is to warn an aircraft in flight of an obstruction that may be in their path.

10.34 Witness Angela Henderson is speaking to BBC News:

As I looked at the crane and the building I heard a massive noise. I saw the crane kind of shudder. What I saw was a huge cylindrical object, which looked like a bomb, plummeting to the ground. Then we heard the massive bang as it hit the ground.
It sounds a bit gory, but I wanted to know what happened, so I rushed down the stairs into the street. The plume of grey smoke was getting bigger by that point. I could see fires and I could see a lot of vehicles.

10.31 We have an interactive map now of the crash scene, showing pictures from Instagram and Twitter users.

10.25 A fire service spokesman has spoken to BBC News: He says all fires are now out, and there are not believed to be any more victims in the area yet to be found. Hazardous materials specialists are on site and working to make sure that the aviation fuel that fell into the Wandsworth Road does not make its way into the sewer system.

10.21 Guido Fawkes is reporting that helicopter pilots were given a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) warning about the crane on January 7. These are sent out to highlight potentially dangerous areas.

10.16 There are now reports that the number of injured has risen to nine. One of those injured is critically ill. Only two of the injured have been taken to hospital.

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