Horror as Liskeard-registered helicopter crashes in London
THE Cornish owners of the helicopter which crashed in central London yesterday have expressed sympathy for those caught up in the tragedy.
The Augusta aircraft smashed into a crane in Vauxhall, before plummeting to the ground engulfed in a fireball.
Ross Bunyard, the managing director of Liskeard based Castle Air, confirmed that the aircraft was owned by the firm – but was leased out to another firm.
The pilot – the only person onboard – and another person died and 13 more people were injured when the horror unfolded during morning rush hour.
Speaking at the Castle Air base yesterday afternoon, Mr Bunyard said: "Castle Air can confirm that one of its helicopters, an Augusta 109 bearing the registration GCR ST, crashed this morning in Vauxhall, London.
"The helicopter is on a long term lease with one of our customers, which is another operator.
"We are not in a position to make any further comment other than to express our sympathy and condolences to those affected by the incident."
The helicopter is reported to have been being used by firm RotorMotion and the pilot has been named as highly experienced Pete Barnes.
He had flown for Hollywood film productions, air ambulances, utility companies and the London Olympics.
The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Redhill in Surrey to Elstree in London when it was diverted.
Witnesses reported seeing a "massive ball of flames" and a deafening "explosion" after the helicopter crashed into the ground, raining debris throughout the area.
Witnesses suggested that the helicopter plunged more than 60 storeys to the ground as the crane remained dangling precariously.
The accident happened in one of the busiest parts of the capital.
The owners of London Heliport at Battersea said they received a request via Heathrow air traffic control from the pilot asking to divert due to bad weather.
Poor visibility in the capital was already delaying flights at London City Airport.
A spokesman for Aldersgate Investments, the company owned by the billionaire Reuben Brothers, which owns London Heliport, said: "We received a request from Heathrow air traffic control to accept the helicopter, which had asked to be diverted due to bad weather.
"The London Heliport never gained contact with the helicopter."
Prime Minister David Cameron was "very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries" in the crash, his spokesman said. The light-weight, twin engine helicopter has eight seats and is used for executive transport, offshore and emergency medical services, as well as surveillance and patrol missions for police forces.
With the rotors turning, the helicopter is 13.04 metres long and 3.5 metres high. Its maximum cruise speed is 177 miles (285 kilometres) per hour.