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Vauxhall helicopter crash: Two dead

SHOCKING: The scene after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top of St George's Wharf tower building, in Vauxhall south London

TWO PEOPLE have died after a helicopter crashed at 8am this morning (January 16) in Vauxhall, south London.

The Agusta 109 civilian helicopter, which was on a scheduled flight from Redhill aerodrome in Surrey to Elstree in Hertfordshire, hit the top of a crane at the top of St George's Wharf tower building before crashing into the ground in a ball of flames.

The pilot, who died at the scene, has been named as captain Pete Barnes. The 50-year-old was a freelance pilot for the company RotorMotion, which say he had clocked up over 12,000 hours of flying. On the company's website, a biography of Barnes reads: "over the last 18 years [he] has had a diverse career, Instructing, flying the ‘Newcastle Traffic & Travel’ helicopter as the ‘Voice of Metro FM’, flying the Air Ambulance and flying in many movies, TV programmes and adverts as both camera ship and action vehicle.

"He is one of the country's most experienced Agusta pilots and instructor and has personally ferried 50 new machines from the factory in Milan to customers.

"He has flown as a freelance pilot for RotorMotion since 1997. We often get repeat business from clients, who request him for both his piloting skills and his relaxed charming manner."

Police have just confirmed that they are "aware of 11 casualties: two dead, four taken to hospital (1 critical), five treated at scene".

Those injured have been taken to St Thomas' Hospital, less than a mile east from the crash site.

Police said only the pilot was inside the helicopter. The other fatality, according to police and the ambulance service, was a person "in close proximity" to the crash site. Authorities were unable to confirm the deceased person's exact location, as it is part of ongoing investigations.

Witnesses reported seeing a “massive ball of flames” and a deafening "explosion" after the helicopter crashed into the ground, raining debris throughout the area, reports The Telegraph.

The crash site is located close to MI6's headquarters, but police say there is no suggestion it is terrorism.

Local roads were shut and the local bus station was closed and police have advised people to avoid the area. Currently Vauxhall tube and bus stations are closed. Vauxhall rail has re-opened.

DAMAGE: The scene after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top of St George's Wharf tower building, in Vauxhall south London

It has been reported that fire and rescue services have successfully tackled the blaze and the London Fire Brigade say they are now "doing precautionary checks of the river Thames in relation to the crash."

At a news conference on site, a fire service spokesman confirmed all fires have been extinguished.

Prime minister David Cameron said he is "very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries."

Aviation expert, Jim Ferguson, told the BBC "We don't know if this helicopter carried a black box,"' and said it was too early to know why the helicopter flew so close to the crane.

Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck said: "Our first thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives in Vauxhall this morning. I want to praise the response of the emergency services who are at the scene. I understand that swift action by the fire service may well have saved the life of one of the casualties of the crash.

“The incident has been a shock for the many residents and workers in this densely built up residential and commercial area with tragic deaths and serious injuries. The safety of Lambeth residents is my major concern and I will be seeking reassurances about the procedures governing helicopter flights.”

The London Fire Brigade have said they will now focus their efforts on stabilising the crane which is “precariously positioned” on top of the St George Wharf Tower.

Chief executive of Redhill Aerodrome Ventures Limited, the company that operates the aerodrome in Surrey from which the helicopter took off, has confirmed that only the pilot was on board.

The company made a statement revealing that the pilot had requested to divert and land at Battersea due to the bad weather.

More to follow

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