A state of shock gripped central London on Wednesday, following the deadly helicopter crash that killed two people and injured thirteen more. At the crash site in Vauxhall, smoke from the wreckage was still visible late in the afternoon and dazed groups of workers were still gathered quietly on the street watching the army of emergency services.
Disaster struck at 8 am, when the low-flying aircraft span out of control and collided with a construction crane on St George Wharf Tower, a luxury apartment building under development along the River Thames. Both the helicopter and part of the crane crashed to the ground in flames, terrifying passersby on one of London’s busiest commuter routes.
Emergency services were quickly on the scene, with 90 firefighters tackling the blaze and rescuing one man from a burning car. Six of the injured were treated on site with the rest transferred to hospital, while police cordoned off the area and closed local tube, train and bus stations.
One of the fatalities was pilot Peter Barnes, alone in the helicopter. The other is understood to have been in a nearby building.
Eyewitnesses described the terror. "I was walking to work when I heard a bang and looked up to see the crane crashing down," Terry Fernee, a local construction worker, told Metro. "I ran back to the traffic lights and looked up the road and saw it was in flames."
Security guard Hadji Bangoura said, "The sound of the crash was like an explosion. People were running in panic, screaming 'we are under attack'."
Although the crash took place just meters from the MI6 headquarters, the intelligence agency dismissed fears of a terror attack. Aviation authorities are investigating, but witnesses reported the crane’s aviation light was not working and hidden by fog.
Despite the tragedy, Met Police Commander Neil Basu said "it was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse." Had the crash taken place later in the morning, there would have been many more commuters on the street, and the crane operator was saved by being late for work that day.
The city was suffering severe disruption Wednesday, with several hub stations and roads locked down.
"The priority is to get transport running again," said Basu.
The construction site adjacent to the crane had also been suspended, and workplaces on the street remained inaccessible.
(Image via Twitter)
(Image via Getty)
Wreckage at the scene after a helicopter reportedly collided with a crane attached to St Georges Wharf Tower in Vauxhall.