Early morning commuters, setting out for work, were on Tuesday caught up in what they initially thought was a terror attack as a helicopter crashed in one of central London’s busiest areas close to MI6 headquarters, and exploded into flames killing two persons, including the pilot -- the sole occupant of the plane.
The other person who died was on the ground.
At least 12 people were injured, one critically. Police ruled out any terror link and described it as an accident. Although the cause was yet to be established, experts said heavy fog might have been a factor. The pilot was reported to have asked to be diverted to a nearby helipad because of bad weather.
The helicopter, which was on a scheduled commercial flight from Surrey (near Gatwick airport) to the London suburb of Elstree, hit a crane on top of St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall on the south bank of River Thames before hurtling down and exploding into a huge fireball. Huge flames and plumes of smoke could be seen from miles, and it took firemen about 25 minutes to control the blaze.
Luckily, there was nobody on the crane at the time. However, two cars were crushed under the plane’s burning wreckage which was strewn over a large area. A part of the plane precariously hung on the side of a residential building while another section landed on the street. Police said it was “miraculous’’ that there were not more casualties.
One motorist said he abandoned his car and ran for his life when he saw the plane come down.
The crash happened during the morning rush hour –around 8 a.m.— causing widespread disruption, leading to temporary closure of nearby train stations.
Eyewitnesses recalled the moment with shock and horror. People were seen screaming and running.
"It felt like a war movie, it was surreal. I saw a woman on a motorcycle that must have missed the carnage by six feet.," Mark Osbourn, a shopkeeper told the BBC. Another man described the scene as “really, really scary’’. Andrew Ross from a nearby market said he heard “a loud bang’’ and then saw `` this helicopter falling out of the sky’’.
The helicopter was an Italian-made Agusta Westland 109 which has a good safety record. Investigators said it would take several months to produce a full report.
Keywords: London helicopter crash