Helicopter crashes into crane on London tower, kills 2
By Michael Holden and Brenda Goh ,ReutersLONDON -- A helicopter crashed into a crane on top of one of Europe's tallest residential blocks on Wednesday, killing two people as it burst into flames and threw plumes of smoke into the foggy air above central London.
January 17, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Police said there was nothing to suggest a terrorism link to the crash on the south bank of the River Thames in the British capital, where 52 commuters were killed in rush hour suicide bombings in 2005.
“There was a really loud bang,” said Julie Marsden, who works in an office building near the crash site which is close to landmarks such as the headquarters of Britain's MI6 international intelligence agency and the Houses of Parliament.
“We saw the crane fall to the ground and this massive plume of black smoke,” Marsden told Reuters.
Witnesses said the helicopter hit the crane on top of the as yet unoccupied 185-meter-high cylindrical block — The Tower, One St. George Wharf — spun out of control, fell to the ground and burst into flames, setting nearby buildings alight.
There was wreckage and debris strewn across roads close to Vauxhall train station, a major transport hub on the south side of London, which was packed with thousands of commuters at the time of the incident shortly after 0800 GMT.
A Reuters reporter at the scene said tangled bits of crane could be seen hanging off the side of the tower, the top of which was still shrouded by low cloud an hour after the crash.
Police Commander Neil Basu said the helicopter was on a commercial flight from Redhill, south of the capital, to Elstree, home to famous British film studios in north London, but had been diverted to a heliport near the crash site.
He said there were 13 victims including two dead and one critically injured. The emergency services said the pilot was one of those killed and it was not thought anyone else was on board. The other fatality was found near the wreckage and the fire service said it had rescued a man from a burning car.
The helicopter involved was an Italian-made AgustaWestland 109, the company's best selling VIP corporate helicopter, according to a source familiar with the situation. The twin-engine helicopter can carry eight passengers.