Helicopter crash in London kills two

AFP-JIJI, AP

A helicopter crashed into a crane on top of an unfinished 51-story apartment block in London on Wednesday, killing the pilot and another person and strewing burning wreckage over the area.

At least 13 people were injured after the chopper broke off part of the crane, which was attached to a tower of luxury apartments at Vauxhall, near the headquarters of MI6, the spy agency on the south bank of the River Thames.

The top of the building, The Tower at One St. George Wharf, was shrouded in mist at the time of the crash, which occurred during the morning rush hour at around 8 a.m. Witnesses said the boom of the crane fell onto a street below, sending construction workers fleeing for their lives, while the helicopter plunged to the ground in a thick plume of black smoke before exploding into flames.

Police said the pilot, who was alone in the helicopter, was killed, along with another person on the ground.

The aircraft, an AgustaWestland 109, was on a commercial flight, said Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, an executive helicopter charter business. The company identified the pilot as Peter Barnes, 50, whose career included flying in films including “Saving Private Ryan” and the James Bond movie “Die Another Day.”

A spokesman said Barnes, who also worked on the filming of last year’s London Olympic Games, was “one of the most highly qualified helicopter pilots in the U.K.”, adding the company was “devastated” by his death.

Police believe the second fatality is Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton in south London.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is looking into what happened, including suggestions that the crane did not have its aircraft warning light on.