Casualties rise to 14 in helicopter crash in central London

2013-01-16 21:52:26 GMT2013-01-17 05:52:26(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

LONDON, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- More people were confirmed injured after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane Wednesday morning in central London, bringing up the casualties to 14.

Among the victims, two, including the pilot and a person on the ground, were confirmed by the Metropolitan Police as dead at the scene.

BBC identified the pilot as 50-year-old Pete Barnes, who had flown on action films including "Saving Private Ryan" and the Bond blockbuster "Die Another Day."

Twelve others were hurt, five of whom are receiving medical treatment in a local hospital. None of the injured is in critical condition.

London Fire Brigade said they received reports of a helicopter crash near Wandsworth Road in South Lambeth, south of River Thames in central London at 8 a.m..

"I just checked in with the security guard here," a witness, 45-year-old lorry driver Ray Watts told Xinhua. "There was a big bang, really unusual bang...a crane started to fall down, bits coming down and everything flying around."

A few seconds later, Watts heard another bang. "I supposed a helicopter landed and crashed. That was on fire, and we just ran. The bits were falling down everywhere, and we just ran," the witness said.

Fallen wreckage and aviation fuel set two buildings and some cars ablaze. Around 80 firefighters were summoned to put out the fire.

The roads and a nearby tube station had been closed after the accident and the scene was cordoned off.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the tube station reopened, but road closures remained in the Vauxhall area and some bus routes were on diversion, according to an announcement on the official website of Transport for London, which advised road users to "avoid the area and seek alternative routes."

London Mayor Boris Johnson arrived at the scene. He told a BBC TV interview that the accident "was very very rare indeed."

"Obviously it caused serious public concerns and alarm that this does happen, but it is immensely reassuring to see the way the emergency services, London fire brigade, the ambulance services and the police are able to get to the scene so fast and to do such a fantastic job throughout the day," he said.

The mist on Wednesday morning was thought to be a cause of the crash.

Given the foggy weather and tall buildings in London, Johnson was asked about aviation security, and he replied that the accident "is being investigated by the aviation authorities."

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