Two people died today and at least 11 more were injured - one critically - after a helicopter struck a newly-built tower and plunged into rush hour traffic in central London.
Witnesses said the helicopter - which left Gatwick Airport, Sussex, at 7:36am and was heading to Elstree, Hertfordshire, to collect an executive - was using the route of the River Thames and hit a crane at the top of the tower near Vauxhall Bridge in Vauxhall, central London, at 8am.
The helicopter, which hit the under-construction St George Wharf Tower, was reported to have been carrying a pilot but no passengers. The pilot was later reported to be dead. The aircraft struck the ground just 20 yards from Vauxhall station, which is a major commuting hub in the capital.
Witnesses reported very low cloud at the time of the accident, suggesting the pilot may not have seen the crane which was barely visible from street level. At least two cars were hit by debris from the crash. The area was evacuated because of the precarious position of the crane at the top of the tower.
The RNLI was today searching the Thames as part of the emergency services' response to the accident. It launched an inshore lifeboat in the aftermath of the crash.
The London Fire Brigade said it had received numerous calls about the incident. Eight fire engines and four fire rescue units and around 60 firefighters plus officers were attending the scene.
The London Ambulance Service sent a motorcycle responder, six ambulance crews, its hazardous area response team and two officers to the scene. The first crew was at the area in less than four minutes. The air ambulance medical team in a car were also dispatched.
Eyewitness Robert Oxley told Sky News: ‘There’s a very low hanging cloud which means you can hardly see the top of the building and that would explain why the helicopter hit it.
'This is right next to Vauxhall Bus Station, which is a major commuting point. We arrived to find the area sealed off. Suddenly everyone was exiting their vehicles.'
Police said there was nothing to suggest a terrorism link to the crash. ‘There's nothing in our world at this stage,’ a spokesman for London's Counter Terrorism Command said. ‘There's nothing to suggest any terrorism link.’
Video footage shot on a mobile phone showed an entire road blocked by burning wreckage and aviation fuel. The side of a building on one side of the street was also damaged by the flames.