London helicopter crash scene 'eerily quiet'
on 16/01/2013 11:49:26
Two people died and several were injured when a helicopter crashed beside the River Thames and plummeted into rush-hour traffic.
The helicopter spun out of control and crash-landed after clipping a crane on top of one of Europe's tallest residential towers.
It fell from from the sky before exploding into flames, plunging on to a street near Vauxhall station.
The two people killed were the pilot and someone on the ground, emergency services said.
Firefighters rescued a man from a burning car and brought a blaze caused by the crash under control.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe confirmed two deaths, one person critically injured and a number of others with less serious injuries.
Debris lay strewn across the Wandsworth Road where hours earlier horrified witnesses watched the helicopter plummet to the ground.
A dark VW Golf, its windscreen blown away, stood yards from chunks of wreckage.
Indistinguishable pieces of metal littered the ground and apparent remnants of the aircraft lay charred on the tarmac.
Some distance away, a grey Range Rover stood with its bonnet open, apparently abandoned.
A cluster of fire engines were stationed inside the police cordon partially obscuring the scene, their lights flashing in the silence.
Further back, the warped frame of a crane hung broken amid the fog.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was "very saddened" by the deaths and injuries caused by this morning's helicopter crash.
Mr Cameron was informed of the incident shortly after it took place in Vauxhall, his spokesman said.
The crash occurred less than a mile down the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament and its aftermath was witnessed by a number of MPs.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman told a regular media briefing in Westminster: "The Prime Minister was very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries in this incident."
Asked whether the Prime Minister would order an investigation, the spokesman said the emergency services were taking the lead role in the initial response, and the usual investigations which take place after all such events will be undertaken.
Air investigators will seek answers to a series of key questions as they begin their inquiry into the London helicopter crash today.
There are strict rules governing helicopter flights in the capital and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team will want to know if proper procedures were followed.
Pilots flying helicopters over London are subject to air traffic control clearance.
If they are flying over central London they must have twin-engined aircraft. Those flying one-engined aircraft must follow the route of the River Thames when operating in the capital.
Visibility over central London was poor enough to cause delays at London City Airport in London Docklands today.
If conditions are poor, helicopters might only be able to operate if the pilot was qualified to fly his aircraft by instruments only.
All those flying helicopters in London would have to follow a set series of routes laid down by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
One of the routes begins at Bagshot in Surrey where helicopters could be requested to hold before their flight. This route would take helicopters through Surrey and south-west London, with various compulsory and voluntary reporting points on the way.
Another route comes in from Cookham in Berkshire and another from Northwood in north-west London. There are also routes coming in from Oxshott and Banstead in Surrey.
The London heliport is at Battersea in south-east London and there is also a heliport at Ascot in Berkshire.
The AAIB will want to know if the proper route was being followed, if conditions were fit for flying and if all precautions were taken.
It could be that the AAIB, as it normally does in major incidents, will issue a short interim report within days.
This report is likely to outline the basic facts of the incident, with a fuller report possibly taking some time to come out.