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Crash Helicopter 'Registered in Cornwall'

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5:38am 17th January 2013
(Updated 5:38am 17th January 2013)

It is confirmed the helicopter at the centre of a fatal crash in London was owned by Liskeard company Castle Air.

Two people died when the chopper hit a crane in Vauxhall then smashed into cars in a ball of flames.

One of them was its pilot, Pete Barnes, who flew for a company called Rotormotion

The fifty year old dad also piloted in movie scenes, including a Bond film.

It is understood staff in the Duchy knew him and are devastated.

The company has a fleet of aircraft, but also charters them to other operators. Its website said: "Because of the size of our fleet and its versatility we often lease aircraft to the industry or customers for longer periods of time. Leases can be arranged for periods to suit the situation. From ad-hoc cover to year long arrangements."

The firm also specialises in aerial filming, with its work featuring in shows such as Doc Martin, Treasure Hunt and Top Gear.

MD Ross Bunyard said: "Castle Air Ltd can confirm that one of its helicopters, an Agusta 109E Power bearing the registration GCRST, crashed this morning in Vauxhall, London. The helicopter was on a long lease to one of our customers which is another operator and we're not in a position to make any further comment ... beyond expressing our sympathy and our condolences to all of those effected by the incident."

Another person died and six are in hospital after the helicopter hit a crane, crashing into two cars as it hit the ground.

Witnesses said the aircraft cartwheeled out of the sky after hitting the crane on St George Wharf Tower, in Vauxhall, amid heavy fog.

It then exploded into flames.

London Fire Brigade said they had rescued a man from a burning car at the scene, although his condition is not known.

Thirteen people were injured, with one reported to be in critical condition. At least five are in hospital, the Metropolitan Police said.

Newquay and St Austell MP Stephen Gilbert was two streets away when it happened. He told Pirate FM: "I saw the line and convoy of fire brigade, police and ambulance.

"Having been in London on the 7th July when the bombings happened it always strikes fear into you when you see that level of emergency response. It was only when I got to work that I saw it was a very tragic helicopter crash.

"It's quite clear questions have to be asked about how this could happen in one of our major cities."

Burning wreckage and aviation fuel covered the road and people have reported seeing cars on fire and hearing people scream.

Pictures showed flames and a huge column of black smoke at the crash site just off Wandsworth Road near South Lambeth Road.

Firefighters say the crane is now in a "precarious" position.

The London City Airport in Docklands had delays earlier in the day due to poor visibility.

Severeal fire engines were at the scene, as well as police and ambulances.

Michael Krumstets, who lives in the area, said he saw the helicopter hit the crane and the aircraft fall "directly towards us".

"We ran from the side of the road and it hit the road just besides us … and then it exploded," Mr Krumstets said.

Sarah-Beth Casey lives in an apartment near the incident. She told Sky News: "You're always worried about things like 9/11 and things like that. When I heard the explosion - it was like a little earthquake. It was like a gas explosion. I looked up to see debris falling off the tower."

Bruce Grain, a station manager for London Fire Brigade and among the first to arrive at the scene, said the helicopter had hit the crane up against the tower, one of Europe's tallest residential buildings.

"Luckily, one of the drivers had just got out of his car. We don’t know the location of the other driver at this time," he told Sky News.

"Large parts of the helicopter are in the road," Mr Grain added. "There is debris over surrounding buildings… three buildings."

"We've managed to extinguish most of the fire now."

Aviation expert Chris Yates told Sky News that any tall structure must have a warning light on top to alert pilots. The question is, he said, whether there was a warning light on the crane and whether the pilot would have been able to see it in the foggy conditions.

The accident happened close to a railway line and train services were briefly suspended but are now running in and out of Waterloo station. Vauxhall station is closed.

5:38am 17th January 2013

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