A helicopter has crashed into a crane in Vauxhall, London, after it failed to see the structure due to thick fog.
The crash happened at around 8am, when the helicopter hit a crane on top of the St George Wharf development in Vauxhall. Part of the helicopter fell to the road beneath in a ball of flames, engulfing cars below in fire. It's believed that the aircraft was an AgustaWestland AW109: a lightweight, twin-engine helicopter with eight seats.
Two people have been confirmed dead by London police — one of whom was a passenger in the helicopter, according to a report by Sky News — and a further two have been taken to hospital. There are currently 22 fire trucks at the scene. It's not clear how many people were in the helicopter: some reports say one, others two.
The Guardian spoke to a witness, who said: "I saw the helicopter come from the south-east direction very fast, it just went bang into the crane. The crane's arm broke off straight away and the helicopter was sent spinning around in a ball of smoke. I ran straight around to see what was happening. It was very worrying. I had never seen anything like this in my life."
Reports suggest that the crash happened just as the crane operator was making his way to the top of the 51-floor building.
Update: Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said there were 11 casualties — two dead, one person critically ill and others "less seriously injured".
Update 2: Reports are suggesting that the aircraft was probably following the main helicopter route in London, which traces the route of the River Thames so they can ditch into the water if they experience trouble. However, it seems the fog caused problems and the pilot drifted off course.
Update 3: Another witness Nic Walker says the helicopter crashed on to the street outside his house: "I was awake in bed and heard a helicopter. I was aware of some funny sounds and then a loud engine noise, then a huge bang... I flung open my window and looked out to see fire across the street. I pulled on some clothes and ran out to help."
Update 4: The pilot of the helicopter had apparently requested to divert his route and land at a London Heliport at Battersea, London due to bad weather. Sadly, that's just a five-minute drive from where the crash happened.
Update 5: When London police were asked about whether the crane wall illuminated this morning, they replied: "All cranes above a certain height have to be lit,& those that aren't are reported and fined. It is not yet clear if the crane was lit at the time of the crash."
Update 6: The London Ambulance Service now says that it has treated 13 patients so far this morning.
This is some of the chaos caused on the street beneath the crash:
Here are some photos of the devastation:
— Katy Moon (@Oog) January 16, 2013
Part of the crane on the ground by the crash site. twitter.com/QuinMurray/sta…
— Quin (@QuinMurray) January 16, 2013
Ok apparently a helicopter just crash landed in front of me twitter.com/xammillion/sta…
— Max James Tolhurst (@xammillion) January 16, 2013
Top picture: @vctrjmnz